Israeli aircraft kills four Islamic State-linked gunmen

Israeli airstrike kills four jihadis linked to Islamic State in first direct clash between country and militant group

Israeli aircraft killed four Islamic State-linked gunmen on Sunday in the first direct clash between the country and the militant group.

The gunmen were killed in Syria after they fired mortars and shot at troops patrolling the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, a military spokesman said.

Israel has often responded to errant fire from the Syrian civil war, but exchanges of fire with gunmen on the Golan have been rare since the fighting began more than five years ago.

The militants fired at the Israeli soldiers, who were on the Israeli-controlled territory, from a vehicle driving along the Syrian side of the Golan, said Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner.

They returned fire towards Syria before an Israeli aircraft engaged the militants, striking a machine gun-armed car and killing its passengers.

All of the gunmen were suspected militants from "Shuhada al-Yarmouk," an Isis offshoot which controls the area.

"The air force intervened, targeted the vehicle the gunmen were in and hit and struck the vehicle, killing what seems as four terrorists," Lerner said.

Previous Israeli attacks deeper in Syria have mainly targeted supply routes and arms depots of Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, whose fighters support Syrian President Bashar al Assad's army.

There was no immediate response from the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade. The United States designated the group a terrorist entity in June for its activities and links to Islamic State.

The group first gained attention when they abducted 21 U.N. peacekeepers from the Philippines in a demilitarized zone between Syria and the Israeli-held part of the Golan. They released them in March 2013.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.