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Israel hit by missiles from Syria as civil war flares in Golan Heights

Two missiles from Syria landed in Israel Thursday as fighting between President Bashar Assad’s forces and rebels raged on the Golan Heights.The Israel Defense Forces said that a “closed military zone” was declared near the Quneitra border crossing in response to the fighting. People were not being allowed inside the area and locals were warned not to work in the fields.No one was injured on

Two missiles from Syria landed in Israel Thursday as fighting between President Bashar Assad’s forces and rebels raged on the Golan Heights.

The Israel Defense Forces said that a “closed military zone” was declared near the Quneitra border crossing in response to the fighting. People were not being allowed inside the area and locals were warned not to work in the fields.

No one was injured on the Israeli side, but two wounded Syrians who came to the border were taken to hospitals in Israel, an IDF spokeswoman said.

“There were two projectiles that landed earlier in open areas in the north and central Golan Heights near the border of Israel and Syria,” she said.

“Initial reports suggest … the missiles were the result of the domestic situation in Syria,” she added, saying the “assumption at the moment” was they had not actually been fired at a target in Israel.

She said the closed zone was set up because of the “internal fighting within Syria.”

“Agricultural workers have been instructed not to work in fields in that area” at the moment, she said. Outsiders such as journalists would not be allowed to enter the zone.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Israeli troops were being moved toward the border.

An IDF source said that “we maintain routine security operation in the area” when asked the same question.

The border is guarded by a United Nations’ peacekeeping force and its operations chief Herve Ladsous confirmed there had been fighting in the area, Reuters reported.

"Yes there was shooting," Herve Ladsous told reporters during a visit to Paris.

"We are following events in the Golan Heights, which is a very sensitive region, with particularly close attention," he added.

Ladsous added that the 1,000-strong United Nations Disengagement Observer Force had taken measures to ensure the safety of its personnel but stressed that its involvement was not called into doubt by the incidents.

He said the region had been "extremely confrontational" in the past year. "We are doing everything we can to reduce risks. We have closed posts that were too exposed, reinforced our equipment and vehicles, and our activities are more static," he said.

Activists told Reuters earlier on Thursday that rebels had taken the Quneitra crossing, which is manned by the United Nations force and is the only passage between Syria and Israel.

"There are heavy explosions and fierce clashing ongoing in the area," said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ladsous did not confirm that the crossing had been captured.

Austria's chancellor, however, announced Thursday that the country was withdrawing its 380 members of the peacekeeping force because of the fierce fighting, Reuters reported.

"Freedom of movement in the area ... no longer exists. The uncontrolled and immediate danger to Austrian soldiers has risen to an unacceptable level," Chancellor Werner Faymann and his deputy Michael Spindelegger said in a joint statement.

The violence also spilled over into Lebanon overnight, Reuters reported. Lebanon's national news agency said 11 rockets had hit the town of Baalbek, a stronghold of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which has thrown its weight fully behind Assad's war effort. 

The White House on Wednesday condemned the assault on the Syrian town of Qusair by Syrian government forces, who worked with Lebanese Hezbollah allies to take control from rebel fighters.

"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the Assad regime's assault on Qusair, which has killed untold numbers of civilians and is causing tremendous humanitarian suffering," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in statement.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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