Most intense Israeli incursion since 1973 follows Irans alleged firing on Golan Heights
Israel has claimed it reached nearly all Iranian infrastructure in Syria during airstrikes launched in response to a rocket attack on its troops in the occupied Golan Heights it blamed on Iran.
The alleged Iranian bombardment just after midnight , which Israel told failed to hit its targets, and extensive reply appeared to be the most serious showdown ever between two foes who have long warned of war.
It would be the first time, if corroborated, that Iran has fired rockets directly at Israeli forces in existing conflicts that for years has been opposed through proxies such as the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Israel’s response was the most significant strike in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The confrontation follows a months-long shadow war campaign during which Israel has been accused of recurred air assaults in Syria, the latest of which was reported on Tuesday night.
Its military said on Thursday it had attacked dozens of targets included weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centres used by Iranian forces.
The Israeli defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, told a security meeting:” We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria … They need to remember the saying that if it rains on us, it’ll blizzard on them. I hope we’ve finished this episode and everyone understood.
” We don’t want an escalation, but won’t let anyone attack us or build an infrastructure to attack us in the future .” Hesaid Iran had also been attempting to bring anti-aircraft systems close to the Israeli border.
The Israeli military said a” wide-scale assault” included the logistics headquarters of the Iranian Quds forces and military compounds south , north and east of Damascus, including a munition warehouse at the capital’s international airport.
Observation and military posts near the occupied Golan Heights were also hit, while Syrian air defense engaged its anti-air batteries to incept Israeli missiles.
The Israeli military’s Arabic-language Twitter account told early on Thursday that it was moving against Iranian targets in Syria and alerted Damascus not to intervene.
The Syrian capital was shaken with detonations as jets flew overheard before dawn. Residents posted videos online of what appeared to be air defence rockets operating bright streaks through the night sky and repored loud noises rocked their buildings.
Syria’s state news told Damascus had intercepted dozens of missiles, but that several had reached radar and other military posts.
Israel said raids were in response to about 20 rockets fired from an Iranian-operated launcher at its forces in the Golan Heights. The rockets either fell short of their targets or were intercepted, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus told reporters.
” At approximately 12.10, 10 minutes past midnight, forces belonging to the Iranian Quds Force fired approximately 20 bullets- most of them are likely rockets but that is yet to be determined- towards the forward line of IDF positions in the Golan Heights ,” he said.
In subsequently comments, he added:” Not a single[ rocket] impacted in Israel. Four were intercepted by the Iron Dome defensive system and the rest did not reach their targets .”
Conricus accused the general in charge of the Quds force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ external operations branch, of orchestrating the attack.” It was ordered and commanded by Qassem Soleimani and it has not achieved its purpose ,” he said.
He said Israel had notified Russia before the ten-strikes began. Moscow, which supports the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, said 28 Israeli warplanes took part in the raid and 70 missiles were fired.
Tensions between Iran and Israel soared in February when the IDF said it downed an Iranian droning penetrating its airspace. Since then, Syria and Iran have not retaliated to what they claimed were multiple Israeli assaults, although Israel’s intelligence community had braced itself for a response.
Thursday’s clash followed Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, a move Israel have all along been advocated but that military analysts had cautioned could ignite regional violence. The occupied Golan Heights has been on high alert ever since.
A statement from the office of the French chairman, Emmanuel Macron, said:” The chairwoman has been kept regularly updated. He calls for a de-escalation in the situation .” Macron will discuss the Middle East in a meeting with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Iran did not immediately comment.
Throughout the Syrian war, Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes, largely on weapon convoys believed to be heading for Hezbollah, but the most recent overnight raids were the most intense to date.
It has alerted it will not permit Iran to establishes a permanent military presence in Syria, and has accused it of moving drones and missiles onto its Arab neighbour’s territory. Iranian forces have been sent to aid the Syrian government in the devastating seven-year civil war against insurgents.
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