Israel fires warning shots into Syria

JERUSALEM  (AFP) – Israeli troops fired warning shots into Syria on Sunday, the Israeli military said in a statement, in what public radio said was the first Israeli fire directed at the Syrian military since the 1973 war.

“A short while ago, a mortar shell hit an IDF post in the Golan Heights adjacent to the Israel-Syria border, as part of the internal conflict inside Syria. In response, IDF soldiers fired warning shots towards Syrian areas,” the army said in a statement.

Syrian warplanes pounded an eastern town on the border with Iraq on Sunday as firefights raged around an army barracks in the northeastern town of Ras al-Ain near Turkey, a watchdog said.

Troops also launched a pre-dawn bombardment of rebel lines near Damascus, after 121 people were reported killed nationwide on Saturday.

Northeast of the capital, clashes erupted around Irbin as the army shelled the rebel stronghold and nearby Mesraba, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In eastern Syria, the watchdog said, two civilians were killed in air raids on the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border while Deir Ezzor city in the same province also came under tank fire.

Near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, troops were seen headed towards Bir Ajam in the demilitarised zone, several days after Israel complained to the United Nations about the presence of Syrian tanks in the village.

The Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists on the ground, reported regime artillery and tank fire on Bir Ajam and the nearby village of Bariqeh.

Israel issued a terse warning on Friday after three mortar rounds struck the Golan the day before, the latest in a string of “spillover” incidents into the Israeli side of the ceasefire line.

In the northwest province of Idlib on Sunday, the Observatory reported shelling on the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan, nearby Maarshmisha village and Idlib city.

The army earlier retook a stretch of the Damascus-Aleppo highway in Idlib used for transporting reinforcements, but has failed to retake Maaret al-Numan.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals, also reported fresh clashes on Sunday near Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border in Hasakeh province.

A military source in the area said rebels had been closing in on the army barracks in Asfar Nakjar village, east of Ras al-Ain, for the past 48 hours.

“We are well armed and the rebels haven’t been able to break through. Our reinforcements are on the way,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman confirmed that rebels had surrounded the large barracks, which the army was using to bombard Ras al-Ain.

The mainly Kurdish province has seen heavy fighting in the past few days, with 46 combatants killed when the opposition seized Ras al-Ain on Friday.

The Observatory on Saturday reported that Kurdish residents backed by militia from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) had taken control of three towns near the border with Turkey after convincing pro-government forces to leave.

The PYD has links with Turkey’s rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The watchdog said residents feared a repeat of the violence that saw 9,000 Syrians flee to Turkey in 24 hours.

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Israel fires warning shots into Syria

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