Israel accused Hezbollah on Monday of orchestrating shelling across the Golan Heights frontier in order to stoke Israeli-Syrian fighting, and called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his big-power ally Russia to curb the Lebanese guerrillas.
Twice last week, mortar rounds or rockets launched from Syria hit areas of the Golan that Israel has held since the 1967 Middle East war, causing no casualties but drawing retaliatory artillery fire against Syrian army posts.
Israel has largely stayed out of the six-year civil war in the neighbouring enemy state, but has threatened to step up strikes if attacked from the Golan or to prevent Assad’s Iranian and Hezbollah reinforcements setting up Syrian garrisons. Addressing his parliamentary faction, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Golan shelling was carried out by a Syrian cell on Hezbollah’s orders, without Damascus having been informed.
He did not elaborate on the source of the information.
“There was a personal instruction by (Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah to compartmentalise Assad and his regime from the execution of this shooting … with the goal of dragging us into the Syrian mire,” Lieberman said in the televised remarks. “Therefore I call here both on the Assad regime … and also on the Russian forces that are present there, to restrain Hezbollah. And this is another example of why they should be kicked out of Syria as fast as possible.”
In what appeared to be a reference to Israel’s efforts to coordinate its actions in Syria with Moscow, Lieberman said Russian military commanders in Syria “have received all the (information) that they need on this matter”.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, after projectiles fired from Syria drew an Israeli attack on three Syrian artillery guns, that Israeli strikes would have “grave consequences”. Israel has also carried out targeted air strikes in Syria during the civil war, alarmed by the expanding influence of Iran. The Israeli air force says it has struck arms convoys of the Syrian military and Hezbollah nearly 100 times in recent years. Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006.