Last updated: February 19. 2013 4:49PM - 187 Views

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JERUSALEM — Israel was drawn into the fighting in neighboring Syria for the first time Sunday, firing warning shots across the border after an errant mortar shell landed near an Israeli military installation in the Golan Heights.


While Israel appeared eager to calm the situation, its response was a potent reminder of how easily the Syrian civil war — already spilling across borders with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — could explode into a wider regional conflagration.


Israeli officials threatened even tougher retaliation if attacks persist.


They have feared that the instability in Syria over the past 19 months could spill across the border into Israel, particularly as President Bashar Assad's grip on power grows increasingly precarious.


Meanwhile, Syrian anti-government groups struck a deal Sunday under intense international pressure to form a new opposition leadership that will include representatives from the country's disparate factions fighting to topple Assad's regime, activists said.


The opposition has been deeply divided for months despite the relentless bloodshed in Syria and repeated calls from their Western and Arab supporters to create a cohesive and representative leadership that could present a single conduit for foreign aid. The agreement, reached Sunday after more than a week of meetings in the Qatari capital of Doha, could boost efforts to secure international support — and potentially weapons — that will be crucial in the war to oust Assad.


The new leadership will be called the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces.


In recent weeks, incidents of errant fire from Syria have multiplied, leading Israel to warn that it holds Syria responsible. Israeli officials believe most of the fire has come from Syrian government forces, although they think it has been inadvertent and not been aimed at Israel.


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