Syria's Civil Conflict Could Soon Involve Israel

Israel fired a missile into Syrian territory on the Golan Heights on Monday, responding to mortar shell that landed on Israeli-held territory The cross-border incident occurred as Syrian army troops battled rebels near the frontier.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

We begin this hour with the conflict in Syria. There are both military and diplomatic developments to report. First, cross-border fire between Syrian and Israeli forces. Israel's military says it hit back today at a Syrian army mortar unit that had launched a round into Israeli-held territory in the Golan Heights. And Israel says it's ready to escalate its response if necessary.

As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports, that raises the possibility that the civil conflict in Syria could draw in yet another neighbor.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to foreign diplomats in an effort to rally support for Israel's actions. He said that Israel would not allow its borders to be breached or its citizens to be fired upon. For two consecutive days, Syrian mortar shells have landed on or near Israeli military outposts in the Golan Heights. Yesterday, Israel responded with a warning shot.

Today, the military says Israeli tank fire scored a direct hit on the source of the Syrian mortar shells. The Israeli military says it believes the Syrian army was trying to shell rebel positions, not Israel. But Prime minister Netanyahu says Israel is still trying to determine whether or not the shelling was intentional and it will respond accordingly. Israel has complained to the U.N. peacekeeping force that polices the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on both Israel and Syria to exercise restraint and respect the terms of the agreement that ended the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The two sides had not exchanged fire across the Golan Heights since the end of that war.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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