An Israeli tank scored a “direct hit” Monday on a Syrian armored vehicle after a mortar shell landed on Israeli-held territory, the military said, in the first direct confrontation between the countries since the Syrian uprising broke out, sharpening fears that Israel could be drawn into the civil war next door.
Israel has steadfastly tried to avoid getting sucked into the Syrian conflict, but it has grown increasingly worried after a series of stray mortar shells have struck territory in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Israeli military officials say they believe the mortar fire is spillover from intense fighting near the frontier between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army and rebel forces trying to oust him, and not an overt attempt to hit the Jewish state.
But on Monday, a senior Israeli official said Israel is starting to question that assessment. “We thought it was spillover, but today we’re not sure,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue is still being debated among intelligence commanders.
Syria’s civil war also shook the country’s northern neighbor, Turkey, on Monday, after a Syrian fighter jet bombed a rebel-held area near the frontier, killing at least six people, a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.