Smoke rises during fighting in the village of Ahmadiyah in Syria, as seen from the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Golan Heights [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israel Air Force struck a terrorist cell affiliated with Islamic State on Sunday after its members fired across the border at an IDF unit. Four terrorists were killed, while no IDF soldiers were hurt.
In the first clash between the IDF and an IS-linked group, an air force missile destroyed a vehicle carrying four operatives from the IS-linked Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade (formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade) who had opened fire at a Golani Brigade patrol in the southern Golan Heights at around 8:30 a.m., east of the community of Avnei Eitan.
The patrol came under attack by small arms and mortar fire from the terrorists from just across the border. An IAF aircraft silenced the fire.
In light of the incident, field workers and residents were told to evacuate the area near the border until calm was restored.
“Israel will not let Islamic State or any other hostile organization use the chaos of the war in Syria to set up shop on Israel’s northern border,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
Netanyahu, speaking at the start of a special cabinet session held in fire-ravaged Haifa, opened the meeting by praising the IDF for successfully thwarting an attack in the North where the borders of Israel, Jordan and Syria meet.
Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the US-based Middle East Forum who is currently located on the Syrian border, told The Jerusalem Post
that, “It’s not in the group’s interest to engage in a wider war with Israel for the time being. Their main priority is fighting the rebels.”
Rebel groups on Saturday launched an offensive against the Syrian Army, ostensibly as part of a renewed effort to break through the regime’s lines north of the Druse village of Hadr and relieve the siege of remaining rebel pockets in the western Ghouta area of Damascus.
According to Tamimi, while the incident may “just be a mere provocation to see if Israel would respond,” it may be more complicated than that.
“Some important members of the group have been imprisoned at the hand of its own security apparatus, most notably Abu Obeida Qahtan, who is apparently accused of collaborating with Israel, though that remains unconfirmed.”
Qahtan, a prominent Syrian- Palestinian fighter who formerly fought in Afghanistan, was arrested at the end of last month alongside other prominent members of the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade who were based in the village of Jamla along the border with the southern Golan Heights. This followed the assassination of the group’s overall amir, Abu Hashim al-Shami, in what appears to have been an inside job.
But according to Tamimi, it is unlikely that the group is planning an all-out war against Israel. According to one member of the group who had spoken to Tamimi about the incident, “the Jews entered the lands of the Dawla [Islamic State] and the soldiers repelled them.”
Spillover from the civil war in Syria has crossed into Israeli territory on several occasions, mostly in the form of mortar and projectile fire. Earlier this month, a mortar shell landed in the Golan Heights following accidental spillover from internal fighting between factions in the Syrian civil war. No injuries or damage were reported.
Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted two long-range mortars fired toward the Golan Heights in September, marking the first time the system had been used to intercept fire from Syria.
Israel holds the Syrian government responsible for any hostile activities emanating from its territory.Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.