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Palestinian group says it fired rockets on Mount Hermon

JTA

May 16, 2013 | 10:36 am

A United Nations observation tower overlooking Syria near the Kuneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria, on the Golan Heights on May 8. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

A United Nations observation tower overlooking Syria near the Kuneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria, on the Golan Heights on May 8. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

A previously unknown Palestinian group took responsibility for two rockets that hit Mount Hermon, a popular Israeli tourist site in the Golan Heights.

The group, which calls itself the Abdul Qader Husseini Battalions of the Free Palestine movement, said in a statement issued Thursday that it fired the projectiles that struck Mount Hermon on Wednesday.

Following the rocket strike, which reportedly caused no damage or injuries, the upper cable car route was closed to visitors, on a busy day due to the Shavuot holiday. It is the first time that rockets fired from Syria have hit the popular site. Israel also filed a complaint with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, a peacekeeping force that was established in 1974.

The group said in its statement posted on line that it “attacked an observatory of the Zionist entity on the occupied Golan Heights with missiles on the anniversary of return, May 15, 2013, avenging the martyrs of return [who died] last year.”

The Arab world recognizes May 15 as Nakba Day, or the “catastrophe,” the date on the Gregorian calendar when Israel achieved statehood in 1948.

On Nakba Day in 2011, 13 Palestinian refugees from Syria were killed after hundreds breached the border fence between Israel and Syria.

Abdul Qader Husseini was a Palestinian nationalist who founded an Islamist organization in 1933 called the Organization for Holy Struggle. He was killed during the Israel’s 1948 War of Independence during the Battle of Kastel.

Rockets fired from Syria landed in the Golan last week, but were determined to be errant rockets from local battles between Syrian government troops and rebels in Syria’s two-year civil war.

Meanwhile, an unnamed senior Israeli official told the New York Times Wednesday that Israel was considering additional military strikes to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah and that Israel would retaliate against attacks by Syria or its proxies on Israel.

“If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies,” the Israeli official, who contacted the New York Times, said, “he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”

Earlier this month, two alleged Israeli airstrikes on Syrian military sites reportedly targeted long-range missiles in transit from Iran to Hezbollah.

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