- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Israeli airstrikes against Syrian military posts in the Golan Heights killed one soldier and wounded seven on Wednesday in the most serious escalation between the two neighboring countries since Syria’s civil war broke out three years ago.

The airstrikes came in retaliation for a roadside bombing in the strategic plateau that wounded four Israeli soldiers the previous day.

Both sides issued stark warnings following the incidents.

The Syrian army said a repetition of the strikes would endanger stability in the entire Middle East while Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that if he pursues a path harmful to Israel, he would “regret his actions.”


The Syrian military said the raids targeted three army posts near the town of Quneitra, on the edge of the Israeli-occupied part of the heights. It identified the sites as Kom al-Weiseh, Nabeh al-Fawar and Seasea.

The Israeli military said its warplanes unleashed airstrikes on Syrian army targets, hitting a Syrian army training facility, an army headquarters and artillery batteries early on Wednesday. Earlier, Israel also carried out artillery strikes against Syrian military targets shortly after Tuesday’s bombing.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said the Israeli air force targeted several “strategic posts” of the Syrian army near the villages of Kom and Nouriyeh.

The Syrian army said the Israeli airstrikes were a “desperate attempt to escalate and worsen the situation” and divert attention from Damascus’ advancements on the battlefront, especially the military’s capture last weekend of a key rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border.

“Repeating such hostile acts (airstrikes) would endanger the security and stability of the region and make it open to all possibilities,” said the Syrian military statement

Tuesday’s roadside bombing and Wednesday’s airstrikes were the latest in a series of recent incidents along Israel’s volatile frontiers.

Last week, a roadside bomb exploded near an Israeli military patrol along the Lebanese border, causing no injuries. Earlier this month, the Israeli army said it killed two militants affiliated with Hezbollah - the Lebanese militant group fighting in Syria alongside Assad’s troops - as they were trying to plant a bomb along the frontier.

Also, an Israeli airstrike last month reportedly targeted a suspected Hezbollah weapons convoy in northeastern Lebanon, though officials in Jerusalem never confirmed it. Hezbollah said it would retaliate for the airstrike, which killed a Hezbollah official overseeing the operation, according to a senior Lebanese security official speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

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Associated Press writers Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.