Four ISIS gunmen were killed today after they opened fire on Israeli soldiers in their first attack on the occupied Golan Heights.
The Israeli soldiers were targeted with machine gun fire and mortars but were unhurt and fired back.
But the gunmen – believed to come from a group called Shuhada al-Yarmouk, which is affiliated to ISIS – were killed by an Israeli air strike on their vehicle.
Israel Defence Force spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, said the soldiers were from the Golani Brigade.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, stray shells have hit Israel but today was the first deliberate attack on Israeli forces.
Nitzan Nuriel, a retired Israeli general, said: ‘A direct attack like that on Israeli activities on Israeli side of border – this is the first time.’
He said he was baffled what lay behind the attack and said: ‘They know exactly what the Israeli response would be. An Israeli front is the last thing ISIS needs at this stage.’
General Nuriel, a former director of Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau, said he suspected the attack was the idea of local hotheads rather than a change of policy ordered by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the soldiers who ‘successfully repelled an attempted attack on the convergence point of three borders’.
He added: ‘Our forces are prepared on our northern border, and we won’t let ISIS elements or other hostile elements use the cover of the war in Syria to establish themselves next to our borders.’
Israel seized 460 square miles of the strategically important Golan Heights in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it. They have always refused to return it to Syria and have never come under pressure to do so from their closest allies, the United States.
Israel has assiduously avoided being drawn into the Syrian civil war.
Although many Israeli politicians have gloated at the trouble Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad – a long-time Israeli enemy – has faced, the instability in the region has given many ordinary Israelis the jitters.
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