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Golan stability undamaged: Israel defence official

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Israel's ability to deter attack on its positions in the occupied Golan Heights remains undiminished despite an uptick in fire from the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, a defence official said on Wednesday.

"The good news is that the continued stability of the Golan Heights (and) the deterrent power of the Israeli army have not been weakened," senior defence adviser Amos Gilad told army radio.

"Daily life goes on as usual," he said, in what appeared to be an attempt to calm nerves after two days of fire and counter-fire on Israel's northeast flank.

The head of Israel's armed forces issued a personal warning to President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday after Syrian troops fired across the armistice line, hitting an Israeli military vehicle.

"If he disturbs the Golan Heights, he will have to bear the consequences," Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said in an address at Haifa University.

Israel denied Syrian claims that their fire had destroyed an Israeli army jeep.

The Syrian army "fired on an Israeli patrol...but did not destroy a vehicle or kill anyone," Israeli military spokesman Avichai Adraee wrote on Twitter.

"In response, Israel Defence Forces soldiers returned precise fire at the source of the gunfire. They reported a direct hit," an army statement added.

On Monday the Israeli army reported that small-arms fire from Syria hit the Golan overnight, causing no casualties or damage. The army filed a complaint with the UN force.

The strategic plateau has been tense since the beginning of the conflict in Syria more than two years ago.

However, there have been only minor flare-ups in the area to date, with Syrian shells falling in the Golan and Israel firing in retaliation.

In recent weeks, there were four incidents of apparently stray fire from the conflict across the ceasefire line.

Israel launched air raids inside Syria this month targeting what sources said were arms destined for its arch foe Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, whose members have entered the conflict alongside the Syrian army.

The strikes ramped up regional tension, with Syria threatening to hit back.

Israel, which is technically at war with Syria, seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan from its Arab neighbour in the 1967 Six-Day War.

It annexed the territory in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130522/golan-stability-undamaged-israel-defence-official