Although an open-ended cease-fire is in force with Gaza, two people were wounded in northern Israel on Wednesday in the course of three shelling attacks from Syria.
At around 10 pm, Syrian forces fired two mortar shells from across the Golan Heights, both exploding in open areas north of the Quneitra valley. It was the third attack in a single day, the most intensive shelling from Syria in months. No one was physically injured and no property damage was reported in the attack.
Earlier in the evening, a 52-year-old kosher supervisor at a winery on the Golan Heights was lightly wounded by Syrian tank fire aimed at an Israeli kibbutz along the border. The victim was evacuated to Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat (Safed). A local vineyard and a gas pipeline were both damaged in the attack.
Hours earlier, in the morning, an IDF officer was moderately wounded and two Israeli vehicles were damaged in a similar attack. A barrage of Syrian mortar shells was fired from across the border – again, from the Quneitra area. The officer, who sustained shrapnel wounds to the chest, was airlifted to Rambam Medical Center.
The IDF attacked two Syrian positions in response to the mortar fire. IDF officials said Jerusalem holds the Syrian army responsible for maintaining order on the Syrian side of the border.
Originally security sources said the attacks were due to “errant fire” due to the conflict taking place between government troops and opposition forces in Syria.
Fierce fighting is reportedly taking place between the forces fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, and rebel fighters. It is not known which opposition forces are involved in this battle, nor whether some or all of the factions have banded together to fight Assad’s army.
The Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing has fallen into rebel hands, only 200 meters (219 yards) from the border with Israel. But whose?
At least two of the three opposition factions involved in the war have vowed to dedicate themselves to Israel’s destruction when they have ‘completed their task’ in Syria. One of those is the Islamic State, or ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.)
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have been assisting Assad since the start of the civil war in March 2011, as have the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla terrorists. Other mercernary fighters have joined the effort as well.
Opposing them are three major, separate streams of rebels: the Western-backed ‘moderate’ secular and Muslim factions led by the Syrian National Coalition and its Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front which is headed by the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front (Jabhat al Nusra) along with the Ahrar el-Sham, and which includes some 13 rebel brigades, all rejecting the Syrian National Coalition; and the ISIS ‘Army of Islam’ comprised of 43 Salafi Muslim factions was formed last year in Syria, led by Sheikh Mohammed Zahran.
Last year Al Nusra also clashed with Kurdish militias over control of local gas resources and over the institution of Shari’a Islamic law in Kurdish areas. The same Al Nusra recently handed over long-missing American journalist Peter Theo Curtis, kidnapped by the group and held hostage since October 2012, to U.S. authorities via the Quneitra crossing, into Israel.
The IDF has ordered farmers and civilians to stay away from the border and part of the area has been closed to civilians as a precaution.