JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel threatened on Sunday to respond should stray Syrian ordnance continue to strike the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, highlighting international concerns that the civil war in Syria could ignite a wider regional conflict.
The remarks by Defence Minister Ehud Barak came days after Israel told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to rein in attacks on rebels near the Golan, a strategic plateau that Damascus lost to the Jewish state in the 1967 Middle East war and which had been mostly quiet for decades.
“The message has certainly been relayed. To tell you confidently that no shell will fall? I cannot. If a shell falls, we will respond,” Barak told Israel’s Army Radio, without elaborating.
A Syrian mortar bomb, one of a salvo, hit an Israeli settlement on the Golan on Thursday but did not explode. Earlier this month, Israel complained to the United Nations after three Syrian tanks entered a Golan demilitarised zone. Israel also said a stray Syrian bullet hit one its army jeeps on patrol.
Israel has tried to stay out of the 19-month-old Syrian insurgency, reluctant to be drawn into another war and unclear about whether a post-Assad Syria might prove more hostile.
But Barak said on Thursday he hoped the rebels would win, Assad would fall and that “a new stage in the life of Syria will begin”.
Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, warned troops on the Golan Heights a week ago: “This is a Syrian issue that could become our issue.”
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Pravin Char