The Israeli military says it bombarded a rocket launcher in Syria in response to two missiles that fell into the Sea of Galilee, The Washington Post reports. The army said in a statement late on Wednesday that the area surrounding the rocket launcher was targeted by Israeli artillery.
The rockets appeared to be errant fire from clashes between Syrian government forces and rebel groups near the frontier with Israel. The military says in a statement that it “will act against any attempt to compromise Israeli sovereignty and the safety of its civilians.”
“In response to the two rockets launched at Israeli territory from Syria, (Israeli) aircraft targeted the rocket launcher. The area surrounding it was targeted by artillery,” an Israeli army statement said.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police units were searching in the waters of the Sea of Galilee for remnants of the rockets, although nothing had been found initially, The New York Times adds.
“As I was watching the water, I saw something fall in. I didn’t see what it was but I saw the spray from the impact,” Hasdia Rada, a life guard at one of the lake’s beaches, told Israeli commercial TV news. Another man said he heard a whistling sound before an impact.
There have been many instances of stray fire landing on the Israeli side of the rocky Golan plateau during years of fighting between Syrian rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, but a rocket flying between 7-10 kilometers and landing in the lake would be the farthest yet.
Earlier this week the Israeli military shot down a Syrian fighter jet that it said had breached Israeli airspace. Israel also activated its aerial defense system on Monday in response to missiles fired from Syria.However, Syrian state media said the plane was targeted by Israel while it was conducting raids in Syrian-controlled air space.
There have been days of bombing as Russian-backed Syrian government forces advance on rebel-held positions near the 1974 ceasefire line with Israel. The holdouts include one pocket near the frontier held by a group affiliated to the Islamic State. Israel worries that Assad may defy a U.N. armistice that demilitarized much of the Golan, or allow Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces to deploy there once he and his allies retake the Syrian side.
Meanwhile, ABC News reports that the death toll from coordinated attacks by Islamic State fighters on a usually peaceful southern city of Sweida and surrounding countryside has climbed to 216. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 246, including 111 members of local militias who fought IS militants who swarmed their villages. At least 135 civilians were among the killed, the Observatory said.
Mass funerals were held in the city of Sweida on Thursday, a day after the wave of attacks that began in the early hours of the mourning and lasted for hours. The city was the scene of several suicide bombings, including one at a busy vegetable market that left a scene of devastation. IS militants also attacked a number of villages in the northeast of the province, also called Sweida, where local militias and residents took up arms to fight the advancing militants.
IS has been largely defeated in Syria and Iraq, but still has pockets of territory it controls in eastern and southern Syria. The extremist group boasted that its “soldiers” killed more than 100 people in Sweida. In a statement posted on the group’s social media channels, it said its militants carried out surprise attacks on government and security centers, sparking clashes with Syrian troops and allied militias. The Islamic State group posted no death toll for its own men in Wednesday’s fighting.