Syrian Mortar Lands in Israel: UN Peacekeepers Reinforced on Golan Heights
The IDF confirmed that a Syrian mortar shell landed near an IDF base on the border between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights on Wednesday afternoon, December 5. It was most likely a misfire from Syrian infighting stated an IDF source, with the mortar landing in Israel by accident and causing no damage or injuries.
The IDF reported the incident to the United Nations, registering a complaint. It was not the first time that a spillover from Syria’s civil war has reached the Israeli border. Syrian shells and bullets have landed on the Israeli side of the Golan ceasefire line several times, according to the Jerusalem Post. Syrian mortars landed in Israel at least twice during the month of November, with one landing inside a residential area in an Israeli moshav, Alonei Habashan. The mortar did not explode and IDF sappers were able to defuse it.
As a warning response to such incidents, Israeli troops have fired shots into Syria, declaring that “fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and will be responded to with severity.”
Shortly before the first December mortar had landed on Wednesday, a United Nations peacekeeping chief announced that the UN forces based inside Syria would bring in additional armored vehicles to strengthen their security. The flood of Syrian rebels is regarded as a threat to UN security forces patrolling the area.
In addition, according to peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous cited in an AP report, a number of countries that are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) have shown concern following the killing of two Austrian soldiers on November 29, when they were shot dead in Damascus where rebels and government troops have been engaged in battle.
Ladsous, speaking in Paris, stated that security would be reinforced and that more political advisers would be sent to analyze the situation on the ground.
Following Syria’s failure to recapture the Golan Heights in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War, a UN force was deployed in the region to monitor the ceasefire between Syria and Israel. Today there are about 800 UN peacekeepers patrolling the Syrian side of the 1973 Golan Heights ceasefire line. They oversee 400 square kilometers of a demilitarized zone where Syrian military forces are not allowed.
However, on November 3, three Syrian tanks strayed into the demilitarized zone and in another incident in September, Syrian soldiers also entered the area. Israel has filed complaints with the UN peacekeepers patrolling the area.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is currently looking into asylum options in South America, has been fighting rebels since their revolt against his regime back in March 2011. More than 36,000 people have been killed since then. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 25,000 of those killed were civilians. Since August 1, 2012, there have been 165 Syrians killed on average each day.