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Netanyahu warns foes after Israeli strikes in Syria

JERUSALEM (AFP): Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday pledged a tough response to any threats against Israel after the Israeli army struck Syrian military targets in retaliation for an attempted attack in the occupied Golan Heights.

“We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. We will do what is necessary in order to defend ourselves,” he said during a tour of a military facility in central Israel.

“These are not vain words; they have the weight of the State of Israel and the (military) behind them and this should be taken seriously,” the veteran premier added.

Israel launched air strikes on military targets in southern Syria late Monday. The army said it was retaliating after an attempt to lay explosives in the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Syrian state-run news agency Sana said Israeli helicopters rocketed Syrian army positions near Quneitra in the south but caused only material damage. It also said air defenses had gone into action near the Syrian capital.

Tensions are already high between bitter rivals Israel and Syria.

Last month, Israeli army helicopters struck military targets in southern Syria in retaliation for earlier “mu-nitions” fire towards Israel.

Earlier Monday, the Israeli army said it had killed four men laying explosives near the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights.

Several Israeli media outlets reported that Monday’s actions were in response to an increased threat from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which has a significant presence in Syria.

Last month, five Iran-backed fighters were killed in an Israeli missile strike south of Damascus, according to Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Then last Monday, Israel said it had thwarted an infiltration attempt from Lebanon by up to five Hezbollah gunmen, a claim denied by the Iran-backed group. Israel reported an exchange of fire that forced the “terrorists” back into Lebanon. It said it fired artillery across the heavily guarded border for “defensive” purposes.

Since 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of str-ikes in Syria, targeting government troops and allied Iranian and Hezbollah for-ces and vowing to end Ir-an’s military presence in Syria.

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