Israeli tanks attack Syrian artillery near the Golan Heights
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Israeli tanks attack Syrian artillery near the Golan Heights

Jerusalem : Israel | Nov 13, 2012 at 9:17 AM PST
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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

It is a bad omen – Syrian mortar shells fell on Israeli territory near the Golan Heights, and Israel retaliated by sending in a tank to strike a Syrian army vehicle.

It is the first direct confrontation between the two countries from the time the Syrian uprising started with fears mounting that Israel might get involved in the civil war waging next door in spite of trying to remain away from the trouble.

Initially, Israel had presumed the mortar shell incident as an accident but is now trying to find whether the cross-border fire was intentional – a theory making the rounds is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is desperate and wants to draw Israel into the fight.

Experts believe that such open hostilities between Israel and Syria might lead to involvement of Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group and, possibly, the Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip on Israel's southern flank.

It is evident that the conflict in Syria is going from bad to worse with its neighboring countries getting involved against their will – Turkey is an example.

Recently, a Syrian fighter jet bombed a rebel-held area near Turkey, resulting in the death of more than a dozen people.

Naturally, there were strong protests from Turkey because such instability in neighboring countries leads to an influx of refugees who try to escape from the bloodbaths.

The unrest within Syria is going beyond boundaries and spilling over into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – if not checked, it might transform into a major global problem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his intentions known - in a speech to foreign ambassadors he reiterated that Israel would not allow its borders to be violated and its citizens become targets of bullets.

It may be recalled that Israel captured the Golan, a strategic plateau, from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and had subsequently annexed it.

Therefore, there was understandable tension when several mortar shells landed in the Golan in recent times, and Syrian tanks accidentally crossed into a buffer zone along the frontier of the Golan for the first time in nearly 40 years.

As per records with the United Nation, more than 408,000 refugees have escaped into in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

Israel has made it clear to the United Nations that it does not want to get involved in the fighting in Syria and has already filed complaints with the UN observer force that monitors the armistice agreement.

In spite of that, the provocative actions of Syria could spell trouble in the area.

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prabirghose is based in Nāshik, Maharashtra, India, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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