Israel’s army on Thursday said it had carried out widespread raids against Iranian targets in Syria overnight after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies.
The incident came after weeks of rising tensions and followed United States President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a key 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a move Israel had long advocated.
The raids were one of the largest Israeli military operations in recent years and the biggest such assault on Iranian targets, the military said.
“We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told a security conference on Thursday morning.
“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.” Israel carried out the raids after it said around 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights at around midnight.
It blamed the rocket fire on Iran’s Al-Quds force, adding that Israel’s anti-missile system intercepted four of the projectiles while the rest did not land in its territory.
No Israelis were wounded.
If confirmed, the incident would be the first such rocket fire by Iranian forces in Syria towards Israel.
“We know that comes from the al-Quds force,” army spokesman lieutenant-colonel Jonathan Conricus said, referring to the special forces unit affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said dozens of rockets were fired from Syria toward the Israeli-occupied Golan, but did not confirm they were fired by Iranian forces.
It alleged the rockets followed a “first Israeli bombardment on the town of Baath” in Quneitra province.
A senior pro-regime military source in Syria confirmed the salvo of rockets, but insisted Israel had fired first.
‘Not looking to escalate’
Later, in the early hours of the morning, explosions were heard in Damascus, while live images were broadcast on television showing projectiles above the Syrian capital and several missiles destroyed by Syrian anti-aircraft systems.
Syrian state media reported that Israeli missile strikes had hit military bases as well as an arms depot and a military radar installation, without specifying the locations.