The Israel Air Force attacked Syrian military targets early Wednesday morning in response to a border bombing of an IDF patrol the previous day on the northern Golan Heights.
The IDF said it targeted army command posts, artillery batteries and a training base on the Syrian side of the Heights that it said enabled the detonation of an explosive charge on Tuesday, wounding four paratroopers, one seriously.
The attack is the largest on Syria that Israel has acknowledged since the start of the Syrian civil conflict three years ago.
It is the second IDF action against Syrian regime targets in hours. On Tuesday, IDF artillery units struck Syrian army posts within minutes of the border incident.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the targets hit were chosen because they “allowed and assisted in yesterday’s terror attack.”
“We will not tolerate any infringement of our sovereignty or harm to our soldiers and civilians,” he said. “We will respond resolutely and powerfully to anyone who acts against us, at any time and place, as we’ve done tonight.”
Ya’alon said Israel viewed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime as being responsible for what occurs in its territory. He warned that if it continued to cooperate with terrorist elements seeking to harm Israel, it would pay a heavy price, one that would cause it “to regret its actions.”
The defense minister vowed to continue to act “responsibly, and with good judgment, to safeguard the security of Israeli civilians.”
Damascus later confirmed that air strikes targeted its military sites near the Golan Heights, adding that they killed one soldier and wounded seven others. In a statement, the Syrian army accused Israel of violating international law and of making “desperate attempts to escalate the situation.”
The statement stopped short of any direct threat of retaliation and affirmed its focus on defeating insurgents.
Hours after the IAF action in Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting that was postponed from Sunday because of Purim, said that the targets hit belonged to Syrian elements who not only allowed the attack to take place, but assisted in it.
“Our policy is very clear,” he said. “We attack those who attack us.”
Netanyahu said that Israel, to the best of its ability, consistently thwarts the transfer of weapons. This policy, he said, has resulted in a situation where over the past year, and indeed over the past five years since he has been in power, the level of terrorism has been low.
“Last year it was the lowest level in a decade, both in the number of fatalities and in the firing of missiles and rockets,” he said. “From time to time it is necessary to take aggressive action, as we are doing now, to ensure that the quiet continues.”
Netanyahu said this policy was responsible for the fact that Israel is the most secure and stable country in a Middle East that is “undergoing profound turmoil.”
Reuters contributed to this report.