Ya'alon: We'll prevent arms from reaching terrorists

Defense minister tours Golan Heights day after Syrian rebels reportedly seize area near chemical weapons site; says Israel will respond to fire into its territory whether it's intentional or not.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon 370 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry spokesman)
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon 370
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry spokesman)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon toured the Golan Heights on Tuesday afternoon, and vowed that Israel would not allow weapons “that could threaten us in the future” to reach radical elements in Syria.
Ya’alon’s comments preceded the explosion of a Syrian projectile in the Golan Heights on Tuesday evening.
The projectile landed in the Tal Fares area. An army spokeswoman said the projectile was a mortar shell. No one was injured in the incident.
“The army is still sweeping the area. The UN has been notified of the incident,” the spokeswoman added.
Later in the evening, the IDF fired tank shells at the source of shots fired at an army patrol on the Syrian border this evening. Several cross-border shooting incidents occurred from the Syrian position targeted by tanks.
The target was accurately struck, the IDF said.
Arab media reports earlier in the day said Syrian rebels, including the jihadi Jabhat Al-Nusra group, seized the village of Al-Safira near Aleppo, which is reportedly close to the large Al-Safir military facility that stores chemical arms.
The area has been marked by previous fighting between the Syrian army and rebel forces in recent months.
Despite the report, the IDF had not raised its level of alert by press time.
During his tour, Ya’alon was briefed by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the head of the Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, and the commanders of northern army divisions.
“I’ve arrived to tour the Northern Command, here at the Golan Heights, to monitor from up close the developments over the border,” Ya’alon said.
The defense minister noted that a brutal civil war is raging in Syria that has led to tens of thousands of casualties, adding that thousands were being killed every month.
“But we’re not getting involved so long as this does not harm our interests,” Ya’alon said. “When it harms our interests, whether through Grad rocket fire from over the border, whether it is intended to hit our territory or not, we respond in order to silence the source of the fire, as occurred last week.”
Israel is also closely monitoring the potential proliferation of strategic arms to groups “from Hezbollah in Lebanon to terror organizations that are active here in Syria. We’ve acted against this in the past and we’ll act to ensure that these types of weapons don’t reach irresponsible hands,” the defense minister said.
According to foreign media reports, on January 30, just before dawn, the Israel Air Force struck a convoy in Syria carrying advanced anti-aircraft systems to Hezbollah.
Ya’alon said on Tuesday that the Golan region is calm, and called on tourists to continue to visit the area this spring and summer “to enjoy the beautiful views here.”
At the end of March, the IDF twice came under cross-border fire from the Syrian army, prompting it to fire a Tamuz guided surface-to-surface missile at a Syrian army post in response. The missile struck its target, reportedly wounding two Syrian soldiers at a machine-gun nest.
Numerous reports from opposition groups and Syrian regime representatives surfaced on Tuesday regarding casualty counts and successes on the battlefield.
The Syrian Revolution Twitter feed posted a video on Tuesday of what its claims was a successful attack on a Syrian transport truck.
Click for full JPost coverage
Click for full JPost coverage
The opposition-affiliated Syrian Observatory for Human Rights wrote on its Facebook page on Tuesday that more than 80 people had been killed so far that day, including 40 civilians, 17 soldiers, 17 rebels, and 8 unidentified and foreign rebel fighters. The group also claimed that Iranians have been taking part in the fighting in the country since a month ago. They are trained in guerilla warfare and given Syrian identity cards with their pictures but with Syrian names on them, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Tuesday that three mortar shells killed four citizens and injured 25 others in al-Fayhaa near Damascus.
Syrian forces also foiled an infiltration attempt by “an armed terrorist group” which was trying to cross into Syria from Lebanon in an area in the Homs countryside, according to the report. The forces claimed that their actions led to the death of most of the group’s members.
In fighting against the al- Nusra Front in al-Nabik city in the countryside of Damascus, a military source quoted by SANA revealed that the military killed a group of its members that attempted to loot a building in a compound of military housing.
The Syrian news agency mentioned various confrontations throughout the country, but did not refer to the rebel advances mentioned in this report.
Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.