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Syria, Israel exchange fire amid tension, three Syrians killed

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 2, 2019

BEIRUT — Israel attacked Syrian military positions in the country's south early Sunday, killing three soldiers and wounding seven others, Syria's state-run media reported.

Israel's military confirmed it targeted several military positions in Syria, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence posts and an SA2 air defense unit. It said it was responding to two rockets launched from Syria late Saturday, which caused no casualties.

The army says one rocket fell within Israeli-controlled territory but didn't explode.

The Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting an unnamed military official, said the attacks struck military positions in the southern region of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They also caused material damage, it said.

This is the latest such exchange amid heightened tension in the region over Iran's role in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.

Soon after the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he'd ordered the strikes. "We will not tolerate firing into our territory and will respond fiercely against any aggression against us," he said in a statement.

It was a rare public acknowledgement of Israeli strikes in Syria soon after they happened but is the second in a little over a week, both sparked by claims that fire was directed at Israel from inside Syria. On May 26, Israel said its aircraft had hit a Syrian military post in response to anti-aircraft fire against one of its combat planes. One Syrian soldier was killed, according to state-run media.

The Israeli military said that during Sunday's strikes, an Israeli aerial defense system was activated due to Syrian anti-aircraft shooting. Israeli media said that sirens warning of incoming rockets were not activated.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Israeli aircraft struck positions and an arms depot belonging to Iranian troops and Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters.

The attacks came hours after the Israeli military said two projectiles were fired from Syria toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in a move that has not been recognized by most of the international community. The U.S. recently said it recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

Israel has acknowledged carrying out dozens of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets and Tehran's allies over recent months.

For years, Israel has remained largely silent about its attacks against Iran and its Shiite proxies operating in neighboring Syria. But in recent months, military and political leaders have become increasingly outspoken about these activities. Israel says it will not allow Iran, which has sent forces to help President Bashar Assad in Syria's civil war, to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

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