Middle East

Israeli aircraft target IS position in Syrian Golan Heights

Israeli F15I fighter jets (June 2012) Image copyright AP
Image caption Israeli Air Force jets were scrambled on Sunday after an attack on an Israeli patrol (file photo)

The Israeli Air Force has bombed a building used by Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, Israel's military says.

The air raid targeted an abandoned UN peacekeeping facility used as a base for an attack on Sunday against Israeli soldiers on Israeli-occupied territory.

The four militants behind that attack were killed in an earlier strike.

It was believed to be the first direct assault by IS on Israeli troops in the Golan since Syria's civil war began.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper quoted Israeli military officials as saying that that the "abandoned military facility" in the southern Golan targeted overnight had constituted "a substantial threat in the area".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Israel's prime minister praised the response of its troops in the Golan Heights

In Sunday's incident, Israeli soldiers came under machine-gun and mortar fire, according to the Israeli military.

The air force bombed a vehicle carrying the assailants, whom the military said were members of the IS-linked Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, a Syrian group formerly called the Yarmouk Martyrs' Brigade.

No Israeli soldiers were injured in the attack.

"Our forces are prepared on our northern border, and we won't let [IS] elements or other hostile elements use the cover of the war in Syria to establish themselves next to our borders," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance that belies its size.

Israel seized the region in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973.

Both countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which a UN peacekeeping force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.

Israel annexed the region in 1981 but the move has not been internationally recognised and Syria demands its return.

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