- Four jihadi gunmen were shot dead when they tried to take on Israel today
- Attack took place in the Golan Heights in Syria, occupied by Israeli troops
- Israeli general: ‘They know exactly what the Israeli response would be’
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.
Israeli soldiers patrol near the village of Ma’rbah in the Golan Heights today (pictured). Today’s incident was the first time ISIS or their allies have taken on Israel, the strongest military power in the region
Israeli soldiers on a tank monitor the Golan Heights today after four ISIS gunmen attacked Israeli forces in the area before being killed by an air strike
Israeli soldiers on a tank near the village of Ma’rbah, in the southern Golan Heights, today after a clash with gunmen from a group which swears allegiance to ISIS
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.’
Israel had been hit by a stray artillery shells from the Syrian civil war but this is the first deliberate attack on Israeli forces
An Israeli tank sitting on a ridge in the Golan Heights with the Syrian town of Quneitra in the distance. The Israelis have had a lofty view of the Syrian civil war STOCK PHOTO
Around 20,000 Jewish settlers live in the Golan Heights and are protected by several thousand Israeli troops (pictured)
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.’
This fence marks the boundary between the Golan Heights and Syria proper. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 but it has never been recognised under international law
Israeli soldiers stand guard close to the scene of today’s incident in the Golan Heights
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.
WHAT IS THE GOLAN HEIGHTS AND WHY DOES ISRAEL OCCUPY IT?
Israeli soldiers in the Golan Heights in 1967, when it was captured from Syria
The Golan Heights is a strategically important plateau in the south-west corner of Syria.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967.
Most of the Syrians living there fled during the fighting but 20,000 later returned to their homes.
Syria tried but failed to retake it during the Yom Kippur war in 1973. A UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974.
In 1981 Israel arbitrarily annexed the heights but this is not recognised under international law.
There are more than 30 Jewish settlements in the area, with an estimated 20,000 settlers.
The heights – which include Mount Hermon in the north – allow the Israelis to see as far as Damascus and are a natural block to any attempted invasion of Israel.
On and off talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2009 when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proposed to take a harder line.