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Israeli teenager killed in blast on Golan Heights

An Israeli soldier loads shells into his Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014, after the son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

QUNAITRA, Syria: The teenage son of an Israeli Defense Ministry contractor was killed on the Golan Sunday in the most serious incident on the plateau since the Syrian war began.

Israel’s Defense Ministry said the 15-year-old was killed when a blast hit the car he was traveling in with his father and another contractor, both of whom were wounded.

The boy, an Israeli Palestinian, was Mohammad Qaraqra from the northern village of Arabeh in the Galilee region, military radio said.

The Israeli army called the explosion “an intentional attack” on a civilian vehicle by forces inside Syria, with a senior spokesman telling reporters Israeli tanks had fired at Syrian army posts in response.

It was not clear whether there were any casualties on the Syrian side.

“This is the most substantial incident on the border with Syria since the beginning of the civil war,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, the army’s foreign press spokesman, confirming it was the first death on the Israeli side.

He said the shooting was deliberate. “This was an intentional attack, not errant fire,” he said, adding that the target was a vehicle delivering water.

Israeli military sources said the vehicle belonged to the Defense Ministry and was being used “as part of construction work on the border.”

The blast took place near Tel Khazeka, south of Qunaitra, which is located in the center of the plateau.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there was ongoing fighting in the area between Syrian military and rebels, adding regime forces had bombarded some villages in the Qunaitra area.

Israeli public radio cited security sources as saying that the Syrian army had fired the projectile, but the Israeli army declined to comment on the report.

Lerner said the army was “not certain if it was an explosive device, a rocket or a mortar” that caused the explosion, noting there was a hole in the nearby fence.

“We responded with tank rounds at Syrian military posts in the immediate vicinity,” he said, adding Israel would monitor events in the Golan and react “accordingly.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 23, 2014, on page 1.

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