IDF fires at Syrian artillery piece after mortar shell lands near border fence

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By Middle East Affairs

A mortar shell fired in Syria landed near the Israeli border Monday, and Israel responded with fire, Haaretez reported.

The shell landed by the fence in the northern Golan Heights on Monday, and in response Israeli Defense Forces targeted an artillery piece from where the mortar shell had been fired, the IDF Spokesperson’s unit told the news agency.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been critical of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s seven-year civil war. After a U.S.-led air strike on Syria this month, Netanyahu praised the strike, saying “It should be clear to President (Bashar) Assad that his reckless efforts to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, his wanton disregard for international law and his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endanger Syria.”

Nor is Netanyahu a fan of Assad’s ally, Iran, whom the prime minister has referred to as Israel’s biggest regional foe. After Iran made threats Friday that its “finger’s on the trigger,” Netanyahu responded at a special cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv with: “We are certain of our capabilities to protect ourselves with our own power.”

“Israel’s soldiers are prepared for any development and we will fight anyone who tries to harm us,” he said. “We will not be deterred by the price, and those who want to kill us will pay the price. The IDF is ready for its mission, and the people will rise up to it.”

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that an Israeli air strike earlier this month on the T4 air base in Syria was on an advanced Iranian air-defense system and not just attack drone deployment.

The news organization said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also spoken with U.S. President Donald Trump before ordering the strike “in hopes of preventing Iran from using the anti-aircraft battery against Israeli jets carrying out strikes in Syria.”

A senior Israeli military official also admitted last week in The New York Times that Israel had targeted T4, and that “it was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets – both facilities and people.”

That attack killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force members.

Previously in February, Israel had shot down in its airspace what it said was an Iranian armed drone that had launched from Syria, and then retaliated by carrying out air strikes in Syria. In that strike, an Israeli F16 jet was shot down, though the pilot survived.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran began boosting its air defenses following that incident.

The Israeli official who spoke with The New York Times said that the incident “opened a new period,” and that “this is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel – not by proxy.”

The Wall Street Journal said after that incident, Israel tracked an Iranian plane flying a Tor missile system from Tehran to T4. Israel then moved quickly to destroy Iran’s new defense system “before it could be set up,” citing intelligence officials.

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