Israel strikes kill Syrian soldier

March 20, 2014 - 4:36:37 am

Soldiers from the Israeli Army’s artillery battery unit are deployed on alert near the border with Syria, in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, yesterday.

DAMASCUS: Israeli air raids on Syria yesterday killed one soldier and injured seven, Syria’s army said, warning that the strikes endangered regional security and stability.

The army command in a statement said the strikes targeted military bases in the Quneitra region “leading to the martyrdom of one soldier and the wounding of seven others”.

“We warn that these desperate attempts to escalate and exacerbate the situation in these circumstances by repeating these acts of aggression would endanger the security and stability of the region,” the statement added.

The statement came after Israel announced it had carried out air raids overnight against several Syrian army positions that “aided and abetted” an attack against Israeli troops on Tuesday.

The strikes came 12 hours after four soldiers who were patrolling the Israeli side of the ceasefire line with Syria were wounded by a roadside bomb, one of them severely. Syria, which has long accused the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Al Assad of ties to Israel, said the Jewish state’s strikes were intended to bolster the opposition.

“This new aggression is an attempt to divert attention from the successive victories achieved by the Syrian Arab Army, particularly in Yabrud,” the statement said, referring to the army’s capture of the former rebel bastion on Sunday. It said the strikes were intended to “boost the morale of the terrorist gangs that are falling apart under the blows of the army.”

Syria’s regime refers to all those seeking Assad’s ouster as “terrorists” and regularly accuses them of cooperating with an array of the country’s enemies, including Israel.

The Syrian army statement made no mention of Tuesday’s attack that targeted the Israeli soldiers. It was unclear who was behind that attack, though Israel has said it faces a growing threat from both jihadists fighting with the Syrian opposition, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, whose fighters are battling alongside the regime.

The Lebanese army reopened a road between two towns near the Syrian frontier yesterday to try to calm sectarian rivalry that has been aggravated by a Syrian government campaign to tighten its grip on the border region.

Shias from the Lebanese Bekaa Valley town of Al Labwa had erected sandbag barriers at the weekend to cut off the road to Arsal, a Sunni town about 5km east where they believed hundreds of Syrian rebels had taken refuge. Tensions have been especially high in and around Arsal after Syrian forces and the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah recaptured the Syrian border town of Yabroud from rebels on Sunday, sending a stream of refugees and fighters across the border.

Lebanon’s border area has been steadily sucked into Syria’s three-year-old conflict as President Bashar Al Assad’s forces attack nearby rebel bases and suspected Syrian rebels fire rockets at Shia towns to punish Hezbollah for sending fighters to support Assad.

Also yesterday, Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters seized Ras Al Ain, a village southwest of Yabroud, and rockets suspected to have come from Syrian territory fell near the Lebanese border town of Qaa, 20km northwest of Al Labwa.

A security source told Reuters the rockets caused no damage or casualties.

The anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the groups defending Ras Al Ain included the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda splinter group. It did not provide casualty figures.

More than 140,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has become increasingly sectarian as rival regional powers have backed either President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Shi’ite offshoot Alawite sect, or the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels who oppose himReuters

    

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