Israelis evacuated as armed Syrians approach border

IDF: Possibly armed suspects near border without infiltrating; Gantz: Syria turning into a weapons cache for terrorists.

Druse man looks out at Syria from the Golan 370 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Druse man looks out at Syria from the Golan 370 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The IDF evacuated tourists from the top of Mount Hermon on Wednesday afternoon after sighting dozens of Syrians – many of them armed with guns – in civilian clothing approaching the Israeli border.
The suspects, who may have been rebels, did not infiltrate the border, and stopped their approach to the fence some 500 meters away from the international boundary.
As a result of the sighting, the IDF Northern Command issued an order to evacuate all civilians from the upper level of the Mount Hermon site, a popular attraction for visitors over the holidays.
Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz issued a warning on the developing situation in Syria, saying that as President Bashar Assad continued to lose his grip on the country, it would turn into a giant arms cache for terrorist organizations.
Gantz noted that al-Qaida-inspired groups were growing in number in Syria. He made the comments while hosting IDF company commanders in a succa at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
Last week, mortar shells that the Syrian army had fired strayed into Israel, striking northern farmlands. The shells landed harmlessly in open fields, but exploded a short time after farmers were in the area.
The mortar shells were “aimed at villages inside Syria and are part of the internal, ongoing conflict in Syria,” said the IDF Spokesman’s Office following the incident.
It was the second time in as many months that Syrian shells crossed the border into Israel. Israel filed a complaint at the time with the UN Disengagement Observer Force, which operates along the border area.