Mil­i­tary kills 4 IS mil­i­tants in Syria af­ter am­bush

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Is­raeli air­craft struck a ma­chine gun-mounted ve­hi­cle in­side Syria yes­ter­day, killing four Is­lamic State-af­fil­i­ated mil­i­tants in­side af­ter they had opened fire on a mil­i­tary pa­trol on the Is­raeli side of the Golan Heights, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary said. Is­rael has been largely un­af­fected by the Syr­ian civil war rag­ing next door, suf­fer­ing only spo­radic in­ci­dents of spill over fire over the fron­tier that Is­rael has gen­er­ally dis­missed as tac­ti­cal er­rors of the As­sad regime. Is­rael has re­sponded to these cases lightly, with lim­ited reprisals on Syr­ian po­si­tions in re­sponse to the er­rant fire. But yes­ter­day’s event, in the south­ern part of the Golan Heights, ap­pears to be a rare case of an in­ten­tional shoot­ing am­bush by Is­lamic mil­i­tants tar­get­ing Is­raeli troops. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the Is­raeli pa­trol came un­der ma­chine gun and mor­tar fire early yes­ter­day. They re­turned fire to­ward Syria be­fore an Is­raeli air­craft en­gaged, strik­ing the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion and killing its pas­sen­gers. He said all were sus­pected mil­i­tants from an IS off­shoot that con­trols the area. No Is­raeli troops were harmed. Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu com­mended the troops for thwart­ing the at­tack. “We are well pre­pared on our north­ern bor­der and will not al­low Is­lamic State el­e­ments or any other hos­tile el­e­ments to use the war in Syria to es­tab­lish them­selves close to our bor­ders,” he said at his weekly Cab­i­net meet­ing. Though Is­rael has gen­er­ally stayed on the side­lines of the fight­ing, fear­ing be­ing sucked into a clash be­tween forces that are all hos­tile to it, it is widely be­lieved to have car­ried out airstrikes on arms ship­ments said to be des­tined for the Le­banese mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah, a close ally of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment. Is­rael cap­tured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast War and the two coun­tries re­main en­e­mies. Amos Yadlin, a for­mer mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence chief and cur­rent di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, an in­de­pen­dent think-tank, said it was too early to de­ter­mine whether the at­tack marked a shift in IS pol­icy or just a lo­cal ini­tia­tive by some of its fight­ers. He said IS has been very care­ful to avoid at­tack­ing Is­rael to this point since it has been en­gaged with so many other ad­ver­saries. But with its back against the wall in Syria and Iraq, he said they may be look­ing for a pro­pa­ganda vic­tory by tar­get­ing Is­rael. He said they were ca­pa­ble of far worse than a rou­tine am­bush. “We will have to watch closely in the fu­ture to see if this is a change of pol­icy,” Yadlin said. “I don’t think this is a planned strat­egy.”

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