IDF officer injured as Syrian fighting nears border

The Times of Israel:An Israeli officer in the Golan Heights was moderately injured by stray fire from fighting in Syria Wednesday morning, as an al-Qaeda linked rebel group reportedly took control of the only crossing between Israel and Syria.

The officer sustained wounds to the chest but the army was not immediately able to say whether it was due to a bullet or shrapnel. He was evacuated by helicopter to Rambam hospital in Haifa.

At least six mortars fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights over the course of the day as rebels and government forces fought for control of the only Syrian crossing into Israel.

Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda’s affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday, a monitoring group said.

“Al-Nusra Front and other rebel groups took the Quneitra crossing, and heavy fighting with the Syrian army is continuing in the surrounding area,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO.

The IDF said it had not determined whether the mortars were fired into Israel intentionally or were a spillover from fighting between rival factions on the Syrian side of the border.

The mortars also caused damage to a car, according to Israeli news source Ynet.

In response to the spillover, Israeli forces hit two Syrian army positions, the IDF said.

Earlier in the morning, farmers in the northern territory were told to stay away from their lands near the border as heavy fighting raged for the crossing point near the city of Quneitra.

Tourist sites in the area were also closed as Israeli officials sought to keep civilians far from the fighting, Israel Radio reported.

As a result of the fighting on the Syrian side of the plateau, the level of alert was raised on the Israeli side, an army spokesperson said, without confirming that it had been increased to the highest level.

Spillovers of violence from Syria and even intentional attacks by militants and Syrian forces are not unheard of in the region.

On Sunday, five rockets were fired from Syria into Israel.

Last month a rocket from Syria prompted Israeli artillery to shell Syrian army positions.

In June Israeli warplanes attacked Syrian military headquarters and positions after an Israeli teenager was killed in a cross-border attack by forces loyal to the Assad regime.

In March, four Israeli troops were wounded when their patrol jeep apparently ran over a bomb placed by Hezbollah fighters near the Israel-Syria border.

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