Last Updated 11:47 a.m. ET
JERUSALEM An Israeli tank scored "direct hits" Monday on a Syrian army vehicle after a mortar shell landed on Israeli-held territory, the military said, in the first direct confrontation between the countries since the Syrian uprising broke out, sharpening fears that Israel could be drawn into the civil war next door.
Israel has steadfastly tried to avoid getting sucked into the Syrian conflict, but it has grown increasingly worried after a series of mortar shells have struck territory in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in recent days.
Israeli military officials say they believe the mortar fire is spillover from intense fighting near the frontier between Syrian President Bashar Assad's army and rebel forces trying to oust him, and not an overt attempt to hit the Jewish state. But Israeli officials have begun to question that assessment and are now exploring whether any of the cross-border fire has been intentional.
"We are closely monitoring what is happening and will respond appropriately. We will not allow our borders to be violated or our citizens to be fired upon," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday in a speech to foreign ambassadors.
Syria's civil war also shook the country's northern neighbor, Turkey, on Monday, after a Syrian fighter jet bombed a rebel-held area near the frontier three times, killing more than a dozen people in the town of Ras al-Ayn, a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. The official said close to 70 people were brought to Turkey for treatment, where eight more of them died.
Last week Syrian rebels overran three security compounds in Ras al-Ayn and wrestled control of the town, located in Syria's predominantly Kurdish, oil-producing northeastern province of al-Hasaka. A surge of 11,000 more Syrians escaped into Turkey on Friday following the fighting at Ras al-Ayn.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking to reporters in Rome, said Ankara had formally protested the bombings close to the, saying the attacks were endangering Turkey's security, state-run TRT television reported. He said Turkey had also reported the incident to NATO allies and to the United Nations Security Council.
The Syrian jet had not infringed Turkey's border, he said, adding that Turkey would have responded if it had. He did not elaborate.
In recent months, shells fired from Syria have landed on Turkish territory, prompting Turkey's military to retaliate in kind.