JERUSALEM (AP) — Three Syrian tanks entered the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights on Saturday, prompting Israel to complain to U.N. peacekeepers, a military spokesman said. The foray would be the first such violation in 40 years and hikes concerns that violence from Syria's civil war could heat up a long-quiet frontier.
Israel's relatively low-key response of turning to the U.N. suggested it did not see the Syrian armor as an immediate threat.
But the entry marks the most serious spillover of Syria's turmoil at the frontier to date. Misfired Syrian shells have exploded inside Israel on several occasions and a tourist site was temporary shut after armed Syrians were spotted near by recently.
The three tanks entered the DMZ on Saturday and Israel lodged a complaint with the peacekeepers, an Israeli military spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military protocol. She did not elaborate on what the tanks were doing.
The Israeli news site Ynet said the tanks and two armored personnel carriers drove a few kilometers (miles) away from Israeli military positions.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. It later annexed the strategic territory overlooking northern Israel in a move that is not recognized internationally. Before 1967, Syria used the highlands to shell Israeli villages and farms.
The DMZ, which is about 7 kilometers (3.5 miles) at its widest and 200 meters (yards) at its narrowest, was created after the 1973 war in which Syria tried to retake the plateau.