Israeli strikes killed eight soldiers in southern Syria on Wednesday, Syrian state media reported, in what the Israeli army said was a response to earlier rocket fire.
Persistent rocket and artillery exchanges with Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions across Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria have raised fears of a new front in Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian factions in Syria’s south have exchanged cross-border fire with Israel several times since last week.
“Around 1:45 am (2245 GMT Tuesday), the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression from the occupied Golan Heights,” Syrian state media said.
The strikes also wounded seven soldiers and caused material damage, the reports said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with a wide network of sources on the ground in the war-ravaged country, put the number of dead soldiers at 11, including four officers.
It said the strikes “destroyed arms depots and a Syrian air defence radar” and also targeted an infantry unit.
On Tuesday evening, the Observatory had said “fighters loyal to Hezbollah,” which fights alongside government forces in the Syrian conflict, had “launched rockets towards the occupied Syrian Golan” from Syria’s southern province of Daraa.
The Israeli army said its “fighter jets struck military infrastructure and mortars belonging to the Syrian army in response to the launches towards Israel yesterday (Tuesday).”
Residents in Daraa province told AFP that Israeli planes dropped leaflets after the strike, warning the Syrian army and Palestinian factions against launching attacks toward Israel.
“Syrian commanders… bear full responsibility for operations… incoming from Syrian territory,” the leaflets read, adding that every attack “on the state of Israel will be met with an iron fist.”
Israeli strikes on Sunday put out of service Syria’s two main airports, in Damascus and Aleppo, Syrian state media said.
Israel has besieged Gaza since gunmen from Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas stormed into Israel on October 7 and went on a rampage that Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people.
The assailants also snatched more than 220 hostages, according to Israeli officials, in the worst attack in the country’s 75-year history.
Israel has responded with withering air strikes and a near-total land, sea, and air blockade of Gaza, where the Hamas-run health ministry says 5,791 people have been killed in the war so far.
During more than a decade of civil war in Syria, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on its northern neighbor, primarily targeting Hezbollah fighters and other Iran-backed forces as well as Syrian army positions.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes it carries out on Syria, but it has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-foe Iran, which supports President Bashar al-Assad‘s government, to expand its presence.
Israel occupied much of the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the United Nations.