JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli airstrike killed armed Islamic State operatives in the Syrian Golan Heights, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Arab media reports said that seven men were killed in the strike Wednesday evening.
The IDF said in a statement that it was tracking the movement of the men toward the border fence with Israel on the Golan Heights. They were believed to be fleeing the Syrian army of President Bashar Assad. The IDF carried out the attack when the men came within less than 200 yards of the security fence.
On Thursday morning, Israeli troops searched the area where the airstrike occurred and found the bodies of the Islamic State members along with five Kalashnikov rifles and vests containing explosive devices and grenades, according to the IDF.
An IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manalis, said in a statement that at no stage in the operation was there a threat to Israeli citizens on Israeli territory.
Russia announced Thursday that it would deploy military police and place monitoring posts on the Golan Heights to prevent further confrontations.
Also Thursday morning, the IDF completed a large-scale drill of war scenarios testing the military preparedness on the northern border. The IDF statement said the exercise had been planned in advance as part of its 2018 training program.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a trip to Colombia scheduled for next week to attend the inauguration of its new president, Iván Duque, due to the volatile situation on Israel’s borders. During the trip he was scheduled to meet with the presidents of Argentina, Honduras and Guatemala, and other regional leaders.
“In light of the situation in the south, the prime minister decided to stay in Israel next week and therefore canceled his trip to Colombia,” according to a Netanyahu spokesman. The situation on the northern border with Syria may also have figured into the decision.
On Wednesday, a Russian official announced that Iranian forces and their weapons have pulled back to no closer than 53 miles from Israel’s border with Syria on the Golan Heights, though Israel has called for Iran to leave Syria completely. Earlier this week, the Syrian government regained control of the Golan Heights area near the border with Israel from Islamic State-backed fighters for the first time in seven years.