Israel’s military has been directed to act with extreme caution along the border with Syria.

Military sources said Israel Army units along the Golan Heights have been warned against responding to mortar and automatic fire from the Syrian side without approval from senior commanders. They said military operations in parts of the Golan have been reduced to protect against the prospect of an assault by Al Qaida-aligned rebels from Syria.

“There is complete understanding at all levels of the military that a slight mistake could result in strategic repercussions,” a source said.

On Nov. 11, the Israel Army responded for the first time to a series of mortar and automatic fire attacks from Syria. The army fired a Spike anti-tank guided missile that was said to have struck a rebel mortar squad.

“We are closely monitoring what is happening on the other side of the border with Syria,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said. “We are determined to defend our territory and our border. We have made this clear to the other side.”

The sources said most, if not all of the fire from Syria, stemmed from the presence of at least 200 Sunni rebels deployed near United Nations positions in the Golan. They said the rebels and Syrian Army troops were engaged in nightly clashes just kilometers from Jewish communities.

The rebels were said to have captured the Golan town of Quneitra, located less than a kilometer from Israel Army positions. The sources said the rebels, who also control two villages in the UN-monitored zone, stemmed from an Al Qaida-aligned faction called Golan Eagles.

Israel Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Israel restrained from responding to at least five incidents of fire from Syria. Ya’alon said the attacks were not believed to have been directed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“In my estimation, there is almost no doubt that he [Assad] has no interest in opening a front,” Yaalon said on Nov. 12. “All he needs now would be for us to hit him.”

The sources agreed. They said rebels have been moving into positions abandoned by the Syrian Army over the last six months and appeared intent on drawing Israel into the war against Assad.

The border situation has been exacerbated by some 1,000 members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force. The UN force operates two base camps and nearly 40 positions, many of them near rebel concentrations.

“Almost all of the villages, from the foot of this ridge to the very top, are already in the hands of the Syrian rebels,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a tour of the area on Nov. 14. “The Syrian Army is displaying ever-diminishing efficiency.”