JERUSALEM — Israeli military jets struck a number of targets in Syria on Monday night, nearly 24 hours after thwarting an attempt by a militant cell to plant explosive devices in the Golan Heights along the border with Syria, the Israeli army said in a statement.
“The Israel Defense Forces holds the Syrian government responsible for all activities originating from Syrian soil, and will continue operating with determination against any violation of Israeli sovereignty,” the military statement said.
It said the strikes were in response to the incident that occurred around midnight Sunday, when Israeli troops spotted a squad from Syria placing explosive devices adjacent to the security fence in the Golan Heights. The Israeli military said in an earlier statement that both troops and aircraft fired on the group simultaneously, “identifying a hit.”
Israel reported no injuries on its side from that incident but estimated that all four members of the cell were killed. There was no immediate comment from Syria, and there was no information on which organization might have been involved.
In a short clip released by the Israeli army, four figures are seen walking around rocky terrain, one of them picking something up and then putting it down. They are later seen walking across the land and then ducking right before an explosion engulfs them.
Also overnight Sunday, Israel said it struck targets in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to the south, following rocket fire into its territory that caused damage in the Israeli town of Sderot. No injuries were reported on either side.
Tensions have been high on Israel’s northern border in recent weeks following an Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed a senior fighter from the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah. Hezbollah said it would avenge the death, prompting Israel to bolster forces in the north of the country, a region that borders both Lebanon toward the coast and Syria to the east.
Last week, Israel said it repelled an infiltration attempt from Lebanon into its territory, sparking an exchange of fire and heavy shelling in the area. Israel said Hezbollah was behind that attack, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran, the group’s patron, of stoking the unrest by “entrenching its military in our region.”
Hezbollah, which is both an armed group and a political party in Lebanon, denied any involvement in the operation. Israel views the group as a dangerous regional proxy operated by archenemy Iran; both Israel and the United States have designated it a terrorist organization.
Israel and Syria have been bitter enemies since Israel was founded in 1948. After 2011, when the Arab Spring protests that spread across the Middle East reached Syria, President Bashar al-Assad’s government relied heavily on Russia, Iran and their proxies in its fight against rebels seeking to overthrow the government.
Although seldom publicly acknowledged, Israel has carried out airstrikes in the region, largely in Syria, in the past few years against strategic targets, such as convoys of weapons, ammunition depots and air bases, amid concerns about Iran’s role there.
Dadouch reported from Beirut.