JERUSALEM – Two small rockets from Syria were lobbed across the boundary into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Monday, and the Israeli military quickly played down the incident as accidental spillover from Syria’s raging civil war.
The casual dismissal of the stray fire was an example of the pains that Israeli military commanders and government officials were taking to try to lower tensions with their northern neighbor after reports of two Israeli air attacks this weekend on military targets and suspected weapons depots near Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Israeli officials, who have neither asserted nor denied responsibility for the airstrikes, said Monday that their fight was not against Syrian President Bashar Assad or the rebels fighting his regime.
Israel’s beef is against the Lebanese political and militant organization Hezbollah, which fought an inconclusive war with Israel in 2006 and is closely allied with Iran and Syria.
A senior Israeli defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations, said the weekend airstrikes were intended to stop weapons transfers from Iran to Hezbollah through Syria.
Iran’s nuclear program is Israel’s foremost regional worry.
The official, who declined to confirm whether the air raids were carried out by Israel, stressed that Israel has not taken sides in Syria’s two-year-old conflict.
There are no winds of war, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ northern divisions, said Monday. Golan warned the public against hysterics and urged calm.
Then, according to the English-language newspaper the Times of Israel, he participated in an annual fun run for the brigade that protects the north.
Do I look tense? Golan asked.
According to news service reports, the first airstrike hit a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 medium-range missiles at the Damascus airport Friday, and an air raid early Sunday struck military and research facilities near the Syrian capital, some manned by Assad’s elite Republican Guards.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition monitoring group that collects reports from inside Syria, said Monday that the strikes also killed at least 42 Syrian troops.