Israel air force hits Syrian army after Golan rocket fire

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli warplanes struck Syrian army targets on the Golan Heights early Wednesday hours after rockets hit the Israeli-held sector, in what the Jewish state said was "a clear message" to Damascus.

The incident took place just 10 days after another Israeli air strike on the same areas of the Syrian Golan killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general, sending tensions soaring on the strategic plateau, half of which is occupied by Israel.

Nobody was injured by Tuesday's rocket fire from Syria, which Israel said was "intentional". The Israeli air force responded nearly 12 hours later by striking Syrian army targets around midnight (2200 GMT).

"Earlier today (Tuesday), rockets hit the Golan Heights. In response, a short while ago the IDF targeted Syrian army artillery posts," an army statement said, indicating it held Damascus responsible "for all attacks emanating from its territory."

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would not tolerate any fire on its territory and would respond to any attack, whether by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or any other group.

"The overnight attack by the air force against regime targets in an area under Assad's control in Syria is a clear message that we will no put up with any fire at Israeli territory or any breach of our sovereignty, and we will respond with force and determination," he said in a statement.

He warned Israel would "exact a heavy price" from anyone attacking its territory.

Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Israel had hit two military bases in the Quneitra area.

"The strikes targeted two bases in the area under the Syrian army's 90th Brigade, in Quneitra province. There were no immediate reports of casualties," he said.

Following Tuesday's rocket attack, Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner said the fire was "intentional, not spillover from the Syrian civil war" as has often been the case in the past.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israel would "respond with force".

Washington expressed support for Israel's right to self-defence, but said it did not want "an escalation of the situation".

"We call upon all parties to avoid any action that would jeopardise the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria and abide by the 1974 disengagement of forces agreement," State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said.

There have been repeated incidents of fire across the ceasefire line since the Syrian uprising erupted in March 2011.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan during the Six Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.

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