Israel fires warning shots into Syrian areas in response to stray shell
Tel Aviv says it was in response to a shell from Syria that hit the Golan Heights
Israeli forces fired into Syria yesterday in what the military called a warning, after stray munitions from fighting between Syrian troops and rebels hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The incident, described by Israel Radio as the first direct engagement of the Syrian military on the Golan since the countries' 1973 war, highlighted international fears that Syria's civil war could ignite regional conflict.
An Israeli security source said the military fired in the direction of a Syrian army mortar crew that had launched a shell that overshot the Golan disengagement fence yesterday, exploding near a Jewish settlement without causing casualties.
In a statement, the Israeli military said soldiers had "fired warning shots towards Syrian areas".
"The IDF [Israel Defence Force] 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," the statement said.
Spillover violence this month from Syria on to the Golan has jangled the nerves of Israelis worried that the once-quiet front will add to threats facing the Jewish state from Islamic militants in neighbouring Lebanon, Gaza and Egypt's Sinai.
There have been similar worries in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon about incidents on their own borders with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the strategic plateau in 1981, a move not recognised internationally. In all past peace talks with Israel, Syria has insisted on the Golan's return.
The two countries signed a disengagement agreement in 1974, a year after another Arab-Israeli conflict, and though they are still technically at war the Golan had been mostly quiet since.
The escalation came as Syria's opposition struck a hard-won deal on a new structure to take forward the 20-month uprising.
Participants in marathon talks in Qatar said discussions were continuing on a planned new government-in-waiting, but that the Syrian National Council had now heeded Arab and Western calls to join a new coalition.
Reservations in SNC ranks about what many members saw as a move to sideline it had prompted repeated delays in the Doha talks.
But after negotiations that ran into the early hours of yesterday and resumed in the afternoon, opposition officials said a deal had finally been done.
"We signed a 12-point agreement to establish a coalition," said leading dissident Riad Seif.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse