For the first time since the Syrian civil war erupted over seven years ago, two rockets hit the Sea of Galilee on Wednesday.
Air defense sirens blared across the Golan Heights in the afternoon hours and after an inquiry, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the military had identified one rocket launch toward Israel – apparently errant fire from the fighting in southwest Syria between the Assad regime and rebel groups.
Eyewitnesses in Israel later reported seeing two impact explosions in the Sea of Galilee, near the Gofra beach, where numerous beachgoers, among them families with children, were vacationing.
Shimon Cohen, a Western Galilee resident who was at the beach with friends and family, told Israel Hayom, “We didn’t hear sirens, and suddenly we saw a smoke trail and heard a strong explosion sound. It looked like an artillery shell or rocket that fell deep into the lake and it’s not clear if they exploded in the water. At first, we didn’t understand what was going on, but then other people at the beach started to get reports of sirens on the Golan Heights and rocket fire from Syria that trickled over to Israel. It’s a scary and concerning situation because the Sea of Galilee and the entire north are full of vacationers.”
Hasdia Rada, a lifeguard at one of the lake’s beaches, told Israeli news outlets, “As I was watching the water, I saw something fall in. I didn’t see what it was but I saw the spray from the impact.”
Another man said he heard a whistling sound before an impact.
A large contingent of security personnel arrived at the scene and began searching for rocket debris in the water.
In response to the grave incident, Israeli aircraft attacked the launcher that fired the two rockets and IDF artillery batteries shelled the area around the launcher.
“In response to the two rockets launched at Israeli territory from Syria, [Israeli] aircraft targeted the rocket launcher. The area surrounding it was targeted by artillery,” the IDF said in a statement.
The IDF “will act against any attempt to compromise Israeli sovereignty and the safety of its civilians,” the statement said.
IDF officials believe the projectiles were BM-21 Grad rockets fired by Islamic State operatives still battling the Damascus regime and its allies.
The Sea of Galilee represents the farthest point that any errant fire from the war in Syria has reached inside Israel.
Earlier this week – amid mounting tensions and the Syrian army’s advance toward the Israeli frontier – the IDF shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had breached Israeli airspace. Israel also activated its aerial defense system on Monday in response to missiles fired from Syria.
Originally posted at Israel Hayom.