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Activists: Israeli air raids kill 10 Syrian troops
By Ryan Lucas And Josef Federman, The Associated Press
BEIRUT - Israeli air raids on several Syrian military facilities overnight killed at least 10 troops and destroyed an army command centre, an activist group said Monday.
The Syrian government has not commented on the airstrikes, which the Israeli military said hit nine targets inside Syria before dawn. The raids were in response to a cross-border attack the previous day that killed an Israeli civilian.
The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said the Israeli strikes destroyed two tanks, two artillery batteries and the headquarters of Syria's 90th brigade.
The Observatory collects its information through a network of activists inside Syria.
The Israeli military said "direct hits were confirmed" on the targets, which were located near the site of Sunday's violence in the Golan Heights and included a regional military command centre and unspecified "launching positions."
Israel has kept a close eye on the Syrian uprising since it began in March 2011, although it has avoided backing either side in the conflict. On several occasions, artillery rounds have landed on the Israeli side of the de facto border, drawing limited Israeli reprisals.
Israel also has carried out several airstrikes in Syria over the past three years, primarily targeting suspected weapons shipments allegedly destined for Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon.
The latest air raids, however, came after an Israeli civilian vehicle was struck by fire from the Syrian side of the border as it drove in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. A teenage Israeli boy was killed and two other people were wounded in what was the first deadly incident along the volatile Israeli-Syrian frontier since the stat of the Syrian civil war.
The Israeli vehicle was delivering water in contract work for the Defence Ministry when it was struck Sunday.
"Yesterday's attack was an unprovoked act of aggression against Israel, and a direct continuation to recent attacks that occurred in the area," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman. He said the military "will not tolerate any attempt to breach Israel's sovereignty and will act in order to safeguard the civilians of the state of Israel."
It was not immediately clear whether Syrian troops or one of the many rebel groups battling the government carried out Sunday's deadly attack in the Golan. But Lerner said it was clear that the attack was intentional. Israel has repeatedly said it holds the Syrian government responsible for any attacks emanating from its territory, regardless of who actually carries them out.
Israel captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel's annexation of the area has never been recognized internationally.
The incident occurred in the area of Tel Hazeka, near the Quneitra crossing. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian troops had shelled nearby targets on the Syrian border earlier in the day.
Israeli police identified the boy as Mohammed Karaka, 14, of the Arab village of Arraba in northern Israel. Local media said he had accompanied his father, the truck driver, to work.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke to the boy's father and offered his condolences.
"Our enemies don't differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, adults and children," he told an international gathering of Jewish journalists.
In his address, Netanyahu said in conflicts like Syria, where al-Qaida-inspired extremists are battling Iranian-backed Syrian troops, there is no good choice and it is best for Israel to sit back and let its enemies weaken each other.
"This is a fault line between civilization and savagery," he said.
Federman reported from Jerusalem