As tensions remained high in the North, soldiers thwarted an attempt to place explosive devices near the Syrian border fence late Sunday night, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced Monday.“A short time ago, an IDF force foiled an attempt to place explosive devices along the border with Syria,” the IDF said. “Special forces that were carrying out an ambush near an IDF post in the southern Golan Heights spotted a cell with a number of terrorists planting explosive devices along the border. An IDF force and an aircraft opened fire together on the four-member cell and hit them.”The soldiers were unharmed, the IDF said.While the IDF cannot say with certainty which group was behind the foiled attack, it considers the Syrian regime responsible for “any action taken from its territory” and will not allow for any violation of Israeli sovereignty, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said.
“We don’t know who sent them,” he said. “There are a lot of players in Syria, some acting for Iran and some not. We cannot say right now that this is a Hezbollah attack, but we can’t rule it out either.”Northern Command has been on high alert over the past 10 days, bracing for an attack by Hezbollah following the death of an operative in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria.Over the past few days, the military said it had identified several suspicious shepherds in the area, turning it into a hostile area. The IDF deployed troops from the elite Maglan reconnaissance unit. The IDF has identified several locations along the Golan Heights where Hezbollah collects intelligence on Israel using shepherds to report on troop movements.On Sunday night, observers identified suspicious movement of two shepherds around 8 p.m. and around 11 p.m. and saw the four-man cell approach the same area and place explosives along the fence.The cell crossed the Alpha Line between Syria and Israel, putting them in Israeli territory, but did not cross the border fence, Zilberman said. They were simultaneously struck and killed by air and ground forces.Later on Monday, the IDF said during an investigation of the scene, some 25 meters from the perimeter fence inside Israeli territory, weapons and a bag containing a number of explosive devices were found.The foiled attack took place near an abandoned military post in the southern Golan Heights on the Syrian border where the IDF operated the Mazor Ladach field clinic, which was opened in August 2017 and closed a year later, Zilberman told reporters.The clinic provided medical treatment for some 6,800 locals from the Syrian Golan Heights, he said.Following the return of Syrian regime forces to the south of the country and the rebuilding of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), which was decimated over the course of the ongoing civil war, the influence of Hezbollah on the SAA has increased. Last week, the IDF thwarted an attack by a Hezbollah cell from Lebanon after they crossed the border, known as the Blue Line, several meters into sovereign Israeli territory. They were identified by soldiers, who opened fire on them, causing them to flee back across the border without firing.The IDF remains on high alert along the northern border for additional attacks by the Lebanese terrorist group.
“We will harm anyone who will try to harm us and who harms us,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a Likud faction meeting on Monday. “This principle remains intact.”Defense Minister Benny Gantz said: “Only an irrational enemy would dare to test Israel’s preparedness to respond” to attacks.“Let there be no misunderstanding: Troops have all measures required to defend residents and hit anyone who attempts to infringe upon Israeli sovereignty,” he said.On Monday afternoon, OC Bashan Division Brig.-Gen. Roman Goffman and OC International Cooperation Unit Brig.-Gen. Efi Dafrin met with United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Ishwar Hamal at the scene and stressed that the IDF “will not allow the security of the residents of Israel and its sovereignty to be harmed,” the military said.“The IDF considers the Syrian state responsible for everything that happens on its territory,” Goffman told Hamal.Israel has said it will not allow Hezbollah to entrench itself on the Golan Heights, and according to foreign reports, it has carried out several strikes against operatives belonging to the Lebanese terrorist group in the area.While Hezbollah used to act against soldiers in the area of Mount Dov in the contested Shebaa Farms, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has warned that it will act along the entire Lebanese and Syrian border should Israel kill one of its fighters.