Two mortar shells struck Israel’s Golan Heights on Monday in the early evening local time. Though the IDF described the mortars as accidental spillover from fighting across the border in Syria, they are bound to deepen fears of escalating violence in the region.
On Friday and Sunday Israel reportedly struck Iranian and Hezbollah assets based in Syria. The Israelis have subsequently made extensive efforts to dampen tensions – IAF jets had conducted the air strikes from Lebanese air space, staying out of Syria – but nonetheless Damascus has been signaling that it may escalate the situation.
Most pointedly, Syrian state TV announced today that President Bashar al-Assad was activating Palestinian groups to retaliate against Israel.
Al-Ikhbariya announced that the government had given a green light to Palestinian groups to conduct “operations” against Israeli targets on the Golan Heights. Hezbollah-linked media, meanwhile, reported that Lebanon and Syria had established “popular committees” ready to fight Israel in the region.
The Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al Rai, quoting sources close to Assad, reported that the Syrian leader had used Russian backchannels to tell the Israelis that Damascus would react if Israel struck Syria again. Syria, they said, would consider any such act a declaration of war and would contemplate firing surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles at Israel.
Syrian sources told a range of media outlets that Damascus had deployed missile batteries aimed at Israel that could respond to any further Israeli actions.
Errant mortars and other projectiles from Syria have fallen on the Golan Heights a number of times over the two-year Syrian civil war. After Monday’s incident Israel filed a complaint against the UN observer force monitoring the two countries’ border.
Israeli troops were filmed operating on the Golan today