Israeli military: Armed Syrians approach border

Associated Press Modified: October 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm •  Published: October 3, 2012

JERUSALEM (AP) — Dozens of armed men gathered on the Syrian side of the cease-fire line in the Israel-controlled Golan Heights Wednesday, prompting authorities to close a tourist site as a precaution, the Israeli military said.

An Israeli spokesman said it was unclear what the armed Syrians were doing. He said there was no violence or attempts to cross the border. He spoke on condition of anonymity under military rules.

Israeli forces there were on alert.

The armed men were not wearing uniforms. It was not clear if they were soldiers from the Syrian army or rebel forces battling President Bashar Assad's regime.

Israelis are concerned that fighting from Syria's civil war could spill across the border. Last month, several mortar shells exploded in Israeli-controlled territory. Nobody was hurt. Israel said the shells were misfired.

Israeli officials have also expressed concern that the frontier region could turn into a lawless area like Egypt's Sinai desert, where Islamic militants have gained strength since the ouster last year of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Israel and Syria have been bitter enemies for decades, but there is concern in Israel that if the Assad regime is toppled, the country could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists or descend into sectarian warfare, destabilizing the region.