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Israel fires warning shots into Syria for first time

Errant fire from Syria into the Israeli-held Golan Heights prompted the retaliatory move and warnings from Israel.

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Smoke rises after shells exploded in the Syrian village of Bariqa, close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, near Alonei Habashan on the Israeli occupied Golan Heights November 7. On Sunday, Israel fired warning shots into Syria.

Baz Ratner/Reuters

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Israel was drawn into the Syrian civil war for the first time on Sunday, firing warning shots into the neighboring country after a stray mortar shell from across the border hit an Israeli military post.

The Israeli military said the mortar fire caused no injuries or damage at the post in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and then annexed. But in recent weeks, incidents of errant fire from Syria to the north have multiplied, leading Israel to warn that it holds Syria responsible for fire on Israeli-held territory.

"A short while ago, a mortar shell targeted an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) post in the Golan Heights," said army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich. "We answered with a warning shot toward Syrian areas. We understand this was a mistake and was not meant to target Israel and then that is why we fired a warning shot in retaliation."

The Israeli military also said it filed a complaint through United Nations forces operating in the area, stating that "fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity." Israel returned fire with an anti-tank missile.

Nineteen months of fighting and the mounting chaos engulfing the regime of President Bashar Assad have already spilled across borders with Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. The danger of drawing in Israel as well to a wider regional conflagration is one of the worst-case-scenarios for the civil war.

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