IS 'apologised' to Israel after cross-border attack, claims ex-minister
Israel's former defence minister claims that the Islamic State group "apologised" to Israeli authorities for an attack in the first public admission of direct contact with the extremists.
Moshe Yaalon made the comments on Saturday during an interview while touching on sporadic cross-border clashes in the occupied Golan Heights.
"Anyone who violates our sovereignty will immediately feel the full force of our power," Yaalon said.
"On most occasions, firing comes from regions under regime control. But one time the firing came from IS positions and it immediately apologised," he added.
The former minister was referring to a retaliatory attack in November 2016, when Israeli troops killed four gunmen belonging to the IS-affiliated Khalid ibn al-Walid Army in southern Syria.
The admission was the first time an Israeli figure has revealed that authorities have been in direct contact with the extremists.
Israel has avoided being drawn into the internal Syrian conflict, however, former officials have admitted that the civil war serves Israeli interests.
"This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don't want one to win – we'll settle for a tie," said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, told The New York Times in 2013.
"Let them both bleed, haemorrhage to death: that's the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there's no real threat from Syria," Pinkas added.
Reporter Jurgen Todenhofer, who spent ten days behind enemy lines with IS militants revealed in 2015 that the terror group was "terrified of Israel".
Israel has been collaborating with Egyptian authorities to fight an IS affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan from Syria in the war against Arab states in 1967 and later annexed it in a move viewed as illegal by the international community.
The two countries are still technically at war, although the border remained largely quiet for decades until 2011, when the Syrian conflict broke out.
Israel attacks Syrian military targets when fire, even unintentional, spills over the demarcation line.
On Friday, Israel's army said it had targeted positions inside Syria in retaliation for mortar fire that struck the northern part of the occupied Golan Heights.