Israel has hit nearly all Iranian infrastructure in Syria, military claims
Israel has claimed it hit 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 barrage just after midnight, which Israel said failed to hit its targets, and extensive response appeared to be the most serious confrontation ever between two foes who have long warned of war.
It would be the first time, if confirmed, that Iran has fired rockets directly at Israeli forces in a conflict that for years has been fought 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 repeated 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 conference: “We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria … They need to remember the saying that if it rains on us, it’ll storm 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 attack” 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 defence engaged its anti-air batteries to incept Israeli missiles.
The Israeli military’s Arabic-language Twitter account said early on Thursday that it was moving against Iranian targets in Syria and warned Damascus not to intervene.
The Syrian capital was shaken with explosions as jets flew overheard before dawn. Residents posted videos online of what appeared to be air defence missiles running bright streaks through the night sky and repored loud noises rocked their buildings.
Syria’s state news said Damascus had intercepted dozens of missiles, but that several had hit 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 projectiles – most of them are probably rockets but that is yet to be determined – towards the forward line of IDF positions in the Golan Heights,” he said.
In later 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 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 drone penetrating its airspace. Since then, Syria and Iran have not retaliated to what they claimed were multiple Israeli attacks, 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 had long advocated but that military analysts had warned could ignite regional violence. The occupied Golan Heights has been on high alert ever since.
A statement from the office of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said: “The president 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, mostly on weapon convoys believed to be heading for Hezbollah, but the latest overnight raids were the most intense to date.
It has warned it will not permit Iran to establish 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.