Israeli army officers study a map as they look towards Syria from the Mount Bental observation post in the Golan Heights. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel Strikes Syrian Army Position After Mortar Shell Hits Golan Heights

The Israel Defense Forces struck a Syrian army artillery position after a mortar shell landed in the Golan Heights, in an apparent case of spillover from fighting between pro-Assad forces and opposition rebels. Israel maintains a deterrent policy of holding the Syrian regime accountable for any attacks emanating from across the northern border, not unlike its modus operandi of targeting Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in response to any rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave. It comes amid a period of heightened tensions in the north following Israel’s destruction on April 9 of an Iranian military facility near Homs, which reportedly killed seven members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. While spillover into Israel from the Syrian war was previously common, its incidence has decreased markedly since a U.S.-Russia-brokered “de-escalation agreement” for southern Syria was forged in mid-2017. However, analysts believe that the ceasefire might now be in jeopardy given recent gains near Damascus by regime-aligned forces, who may now be tasked with rooting out rebels in the Syrian Golan Heights. This prospect is a concern for Israel given the existence of a tacit truce with fighters along the border, who have generally refrained from targeting the Jewish state over the course of the seven-years-long conflict. Should Assad’s Russian and, more significantly, Iranian backers seek to up the ante in the south, it would raise the probability of errant fire hitting Israeli communities in the short-term, as well as increase the likelihood of Tehran eventually gaining a permanent military foothold within close striking distance of Israel.

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