Israeli jets and helicopters conducted a series of airstrikes on Syrian military targets late on Aug. 3. In a rare move, the Israel Defense Forces acknowledged the operation, stating, "IDF fighter jets, attack helicopters and other aircraft attacked Syrian Army targets in southern Syria in response to the bomb-planting incident that was thwarted yesterday in the southern Golan Heights." The statement went on that the targets included “observation posts and intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft artillery facilities and command and control systems” in Syrian army bases.
Quoting an unidentified military source, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that Israeli drones had hit positions near the border fence, resulting in material losses and no injuries.
The IDF attack came hours after the Israeli forces caught suspected militants allegedly planting explosives by the border fence in the Golan Heights. IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said on Monday morning that Israeli troops had spotted “irregular” activity in the Golan Heights. According to Conricus, Israeli troops opened fire on the suspected operatives, some of whom were armed, after observing them placing the explosives on the ground.
Conricus did not confirm reports that the four suspects were killed by IDF fire. A grainy 32-second video released by the IDF shows four figures walking away from barbed wire marking the border fence. The Israeli military did not share any details about them, including whether they were Hezbollah operatives. Conricus said that Israel could not confirm any link between the group and Hezbollah or Iran, adding that many smaller militant factions were active in the area on the Syrian side. He said Israel held the Syrian government responsible for the incident. According to reports, the IDF believes the intended targets of the explosives were probably the Israeli troops who occasionally patrol the area.
In another announcement Aug. 4, the IDF said that troops who searched the area after the incident found a gun as well as a backpack with several more bombs. Israeli officers met this morning with seniors at the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force and lodged a protest over the incident.
For the IDF, the operatives’ affiliation is crucial. Haaretz analyst Amos Harel claimed yesterday that the security services believe that the infiltrators were part of a local cell operated by Iran, not by Hezbollah. Harel noted that Iran has run other local cells and sent Shiite militants to Syria to assist the regime. If that is the case, then the attempted bombing could be interpreted as retaliation over attacks on Iranian military targets in Syria, and not over the killing of Hezbollah operative Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad on July 20.