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Israel retaliates in Syria after roadside bomb attack against Israeli troops

By Laura Smith-Spark and Michael Schwartz, CNN
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
An Israeli tank stationed near Majdal Shams on the border with Syria, on March 19,2014 in Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.
An Israeli tank stationed near Majdal Shams on the border with Syria, on March 19,2014 in Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israel's air force strikes Syrian targets, a day after Israeli troops were attacked
  • Syrian military says one soldier was killed, seven injured, according to Syrian state TV
  • Benjamin Netanyahu warns: "Our policy is very clear: We attack those who attack us"
  • Israel's defense minister says Israel holds Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responsible

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel has warned Syria's government that any aggression against Israeli citizens will be met with force, as a roadside bomb attack which injured Israeli troops prompted airstrikes on Syrian targets.

Addressing a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli strikes on Syrian territory targeted elements "that not only facilitated, but also cooperated with, the attacks on our forces."

He added, "Our policy is very clear: We attack those who attack us."

The government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is engaged in a long-running civil war which has seen some conflict spill over into neighboring countries.

Four Israeli paratroopers were injured Tuesday when the bomb exploded under their patrol jeep in the Golan Heights, near the frontier between Israel and Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Watch shelling near Syrian-Israeli frontier
Syrian war comes to Israeli border

Before the explosion, Israeli forces had detected suspicious movements near the border, the IDF said.

Israeli forces responded to the blast with artillery fire aimed at Syrian military targets across the frontier, it said. This was followed by airstrikes early Wednesday.

"We will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty and attacks against our soldiers and civilians, and we will act unwaveringly and with strength against all those that are acting against us, at every time and every place," said Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.

"We see the Assad regime as responsible for what is going on in its territory, and if it continues to cooperate with terror organizations that are trying to attack Israel, we will continue to extract a heavy price from him, in a way which will make him regret his actions."

A statement from the Syrian army command, broadcast by Syrian state TV, said one soldier was killed and seven others injured in Israeli airstrikes on a checkpoint in the Quneitra area. The Quneitra crossing is the only access point between Syria and Israel and in the past has been fiercely fought over by Syrian rebels and government forces.

Israeli artillery, tank shells and armor-piercing shells directed near the village of Seheit had also caused "material damage," the military statement said.

The Syrian army accused Israel of violating the terms of a 1974 "disengagement agreement" between the two nations, and of seeking to ease pressure on the "terrorists" it blames for the violence in Syria.

"The General Command of the Army and Armed Forces warns that these desperate bids of provocations and escalations by these continuing acts of aggressions can risk the security and the stability of the region and open up all possibilities," it said.

Netanyahu, in his Cabinet remarks, said Israel would continue to do all it could to prevent the movement of weapons into Syria.

The mountainous Golan was captured by Israel in 1967 during the Six-Day War against Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria. A peace deal was reached between Israel and Syria in 1974, and a U.N. observer force monitors the cease-fire line. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981.

READ: Heavy shelling rocks Golan Heights area between Syria, Israel

CNN's Michael Schwartz reported from Jerusalem and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN's Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

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