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Conflict

Israel fires 'warning shot' at Syria after stray mortar

Israel has fired a "warning shot" into Syria in response to a stray mortar round that landed in the Golan Heights. Israeli public radio says it is the first time Israel has fired on Syria since 1973.

UN officers, one using binoculars, look towards Syria as they stand along the border between Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, and Syria, as security is tightened ahead of Land Day,Friday, March 30, 2012. March 30 is traditionally marked by Israeli Arabs as Land Day, a time of protests against the confiscation of Arab-owned lands by Israel. In recent years, Palestinians have joined in. (Foto:Ariel Schalit/AP/dapd)

Golan Höhen

No casualties were reported from the mortar blast that struck a Jewish settlement.

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) filed a complaint through UN peacekeeping forces operating in the area, stating that "fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity."

Israel and Syria are still technically at war with each other from a conflict that dates back to 1973. A buffer zone has been patrolled by UN forces (pictured above) in the region since a 1974 security agreement between the countries.

The Golan Heights is a territory seized by Israel from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981. The international community has never recognized the move. Despite no official armistice, the Golan Heights have been relatively peaceful since the 1970s.

At a weekly cabinet meeting early on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was "closely monitoring what is happening on our border with Syria and there too we are ready for any development."

Keeping the other eye on Gaza

At the same meeting, he also said Israel was ready to "escalate" its assault on the Gaza Strip, after launching strikes on the territory for a second day on Sunday.

The clashes started Saturday afternoon when Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep on patrol near the border with the northeastern edge of the enclave, injuring four Israeli soldiers.

Gaza clashes

Since then, six Palestinians have been killed, including two members of the radical Islamic Jihad group who died during reprisal Israeli airstrikes on the north of Gaza City and four others described by Palestinian officials as civilians. They said 32 other Palestinians had been injured.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights identified the four as two brothers, aged 16 and 17, saying they were hit by shrapnel from a tank shell that landed in a field where they were playing. The PCHR said two other youths aged 18 and 19 were killed by tank shells that hit a house.

Thousands of Palestinians attended the funerals on Sunday for the six. Calls of "revenge, revenge" were heard.

The armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine clamed responsibility for Saturday's attack on the Israeli military jeep.

Truce shattered

Saturday's attack broke an official truce between Hamas and Israel brokered by Egypt in October.

Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, said its militants had joined other factions on Sunday by taking part in dozens of short-range rocket salvos from Gaza towards southern Israel. Four Israelis had been injured by rocket shrapnel, according to an Israeli police spokesman.

Schools in southern Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza Strip were called off Sunday.

Israel went to war against Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009.

mz/ipj (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)

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