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June 23, 2014

Syria: 4 killed, 9 wounded in Israeli airstrikes

BEIRUT — The Syrian government said Monday a series of Israeli airstrikes targeting its troops in retaliation for a deadly cross-border attack killed four people and wounded nine others, in its first comment on the overnight incident.

It said the attack was a "flagrant violation" of Syrian sovereignty, but in a departure from previous incidents when Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria, the government did not vow retaliation.

Israel's prime minister on Monday warned the warring parties in Syria against any attempt to heat up tensions along the disputed frontier, hours after the Israeli air force carried out a string of airstrikes in Syria in response to the attack, which killed an Israeli teenager riding in a civilian vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond with even tougher force if there are any further attacks.

"Last night we operated with great force against Syrian targets that acted against us, and if needed we will use additional force," he told members of his Likud Party. "We will continue to forcefully hurt anyone who attacks us or tries to attack us."

The Israeli military said the air raids struck nine targets in neighboring Syria.

A statement issued by Syria's Foreign Ministry said five Israeli warplanes carried out the raids, which were accompanied by mortar rounds and tank shells.

It said four people were killed and nine others wounded, adding that the attacks caused extensive damage to Syrian army positions and equipment. It did not provide further details.

The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said the Israeli strikes destroyed two tanks, two artillery batteries and the headquarters of Syria's 90th brigade.

The Observatory collects its information through a network of activists inside Syria.

The Israeli military said "direct hits were confirmed" on the targets, which were located near the site of Sunday's violence in the Golan Heights and included a regional military command center and unspecified "launching positions."

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