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Israel returns fire as Syria shell lands in Golan Heights

Nov. 12, 2012 2:45 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2012 1:23 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Syrian mortar shell landed in the Golan Heights on Monday as fighting from Syria spilled into the Israeli-occupied territory for the third time in five days, Israel's army said.

An Israeli army spokesman said Israeli forces fired tank shells after the mortar bomb exploded in a central area of the Golan Heights. Israeli military sources said Syrian mobile artillery was directly hit in the incident.

Military sources would not say if the mortar bomb was fired by Syrian army forces or by the rebels they are battling in and around the UN-patrolled area of separation.

On Sunday, Israel fired a guided missile into Syria in a potent "warning shot" after mortar fire from fighting between Syrian troops and rebels hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel Radio said it was the first direct engagement of the Syrian military on the Golan since the countries' 1973 war. It highlighted international fears that Syria's civil war could ignite wider regional conflict.

"The IDF has filed a complaint through the UN forces operating in the area, stating that fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity," an army statement said.

Earlier Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak threatened to respond should stray Syrian ordnance continue to strike the Israeli-occupied Golan.

"The message has certainly been relayed. To tell you confidently that no shell will fall? I cannot. If a shell falls, we will respond," Barak told Israel's Army Radio, without elaborating.

A Syrian mortar bomb, one of a salvo, hit an Israeli settlement on the Golan on Thursday but did not explode.

Earlier this month, Israel complained to the United Nations after three Syrian tanks entered a Golan demilitarized zone. Israel also said a stray Syrian bullet hit one its army jeeps on patrol.

Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad have been fighting his army for months in towns inside and adjacent to the area of separation between Israel and Syria, along the disengagement line drawn at the end of their 1973 war.

Technically the countries are still at war, but the Golan, a strategic plateau Israel captured in 1967, has been largely quiet for decades.
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