Israel warplanes strike targets in Syria, escalating tensions after roadside bombing

The Associated Press

A wounded Israeli soldier is treated in the Golan Heights, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. A roadside bomb hit an Israeli patrol near the frontier with the Golan Heights on Tuesday, the army said, wounding four soldiers in the most serious violence to strike the area since the Syrian conflict began three years ago. Israel said it responded with artillery strikes on Syrian army targets. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed the strategic area in a move that was not internationally recognized. (AP Photo/Jinipix) ****ISRAEL OUT***

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Israel has said it will not allow sophisticated weapons to flow from Syria to the Iranian-supported Hezbollah. Since the Syrian war broke out, Israel has carried out a series of airstrikes in Syria that destroyed weapons shipments believed to be headed to Hezbollah.

While the Israel and Syria have largely refrained from direct confrontation since the 1973 Mideast war, Israel has shown a readiness to act.

In 2007, Israeli warplanes bombed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria, and on two previous occasions, Israeli warplanes buzzed over Assad's palace in a show of strength. In 2003, Israel also bombed a training camp belonging to a Syrian-backed militant group that had carried out a suicide bombing in Israel.

Israel also remains concerned that an ouster of Assad could see power in Syria fall to Islamic militants there, particularly al-Qaida-linked groups, and further destabilize the region.

Israeli analyst Ephraim Kam said neither Syria nor Israel want war, and that Hezbollah and Israel are interested in only limited confrontations.

"What can Israel achieve by going to war?" asked Kam, a researcher at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies. "Syria is not in a position to go to war now, with civil war taking place."

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Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

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