Last updated: 17 February, 2013

Israel to keep tight control on Syria border, says prime minister

Israel will maintain close tabs on its border with Syria and only let people to cross in “exceptional circumstances,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday after seven injured Syrians were let in.

“We will continue to watch over the border and prevent anyone from crossing it and entering Israel, except in a few isolated and exceptional circumstances — each of which will be weighed on its own merit,” Netanyahu told his outgoing cabinet.

Israeli troops in the occupied Golan Heights on Saturday allowed in seven people who were wounded in clashes on the Syrian side of the strategic plateau to cross the armistice line, taking them for treatment at a hospital in the northern town of Safed.

One person was in critical condition while the other six were moderately wounded, a spokesman for Ziv hospital told AFP, saying all of them had been operated on.

Neither the army nor the hospital would provide details on the nature of the injuries, or whether they were members of the Syrian military or the opposition forces.

Netanyahu said the tensions along Israel’s frontier with Syria would be a key element of his talks with US President Barack Obama when he makes his first visit to Israel as president next month.

On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe told Channel 2 TV that letting in the wounded Syrians was “an isolated incident” on humanitarian grounds, and a military source told public radio Israel had prepared designated areas along the frontier to receive Syrian refugees under the auspices of the United Nations.

There have been several instances of mortars or gunfire inadvertently landing on the Israeli side of the plateau, prompting troops in November to respond with artillery in the first such instance of Israeli fire towards the Syrian military since the 1973 war.

Israel seized the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognised by the international community.

It is currently upgrading its security fence along its armistice line with the work expected to be finished by the end of the year.