Israel says shot two Hezbollah fighters on Syrian Golan

by Reuters
Wednesday, 5 March 2014 11:24 GMT

(Adds Syrian army comment)

JERUSALEM, March 5 (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot two Hezbollah fighters who tried to plant a bomb near the fence between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syrian-held territory on Wednesday, Israel's army said.

An army spokeswoman said Israeli intelligence had identified the men as members of Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia which is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight a civil war. She had no immediate word on their condition.

There was no response from Hezbollah but Syria's armed forces said in a statement that Israeli rockets, tank shells and rifle fire had wounded seven security force personnel and four civilians on Syrian-controlled territory.

It accused Israel of violating a 40-year-old military disengagement accord agreed after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and said the incident showed Israel was actively supporting rebels who are fighting to topple Assad.

Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shi'ite group whose politicians sit in the Beirut government, fought Israel to a standstill in a 2006 Lebanon war. Both sides have built up strength since but have largely avoided direct confrontation.

Last week, however, Hezbollah accused Israel of bombing one of its bases near the Lebanon-Syria border and threatened to retaliate.

Israel did not confirm carrying out the air strike, in keeping with its official silence on at least three such attacks in the last year targeting suspected Hezbollah-bound weapons convoys from Syria. It said it would hold Beirut responsible for any Hezbollah reprisals from Lebanese turf.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognised internationally. The strategic plateau has seen the occasional spillover of violence from the Syrian civil war.

Israel has accused Hezbollah of setting up positions on the Syrian-held side of the boundary fence, although much of southern Syria close to the Golan frontier is controlled by Sunni rebels opposed to the Shi'ite Lebanese group. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland and Crispian Balmer)

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