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Jan 28, 3:22 AM EST

Israel military says its airstrikes target Syrian army posts

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AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
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Israel military says its airstrikes target Syrian army posts

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Conflict in the Middle East

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The Israeli military said Wednesday it launched airstrikes targeting Syrian army artillery posts in response to rockets fired the previous day into the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the air force attacked positions in territory controlled by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

The Israeli strike was a "clear message that we will not tolerate any fire toward Israeli territory," Yaalon said.

Two rockets landed in the Israeli-held Golan Heights on Tuesday and Israel initially responded with artillery fire, the army said. No casualties were reported.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the rockets had been fired from Syrian army positions, but it was unclear if the Syrian army fired them or if militants had overran the army position and fired them.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a base in Syria's Quneitra province that borders the Golan Heights was one of the government positions attacked. The Observatory said it was not aware of any casualties. The Observatory obtains its information from a network of activists on the ground.

The exchange came after an airstrike last week in Syria attributed to Israel that killed six members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and an Iranian general. Israel has declined to comment on any connection to the airstrike, but has braced for a response to the strike, beefing up its air defenses and increasing surveillance along its northern frontier.

Israel captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it.

Fighting in neighboring Syria's civil war has spilled over to Israel in the past. Mortar shells have exploded sporadically inside Israeli territory since the conflict began, sometimes causing minor damage.

Israel believes most fire is errant shots but has at times accused Syria of intentionally firing at Israeli targets. Israeli troops have returned fire on several occasions.

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