Fri, May 11, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Israel hits ‘Iranian’ targets in Syria in response to attack


Syrian air defenses attempt to intercept missiles over Damascus on Wednesday.

Photo: EPE-EFE / Syrian military handout

Israel yesterday carried out widespread deadly raids against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria after its forces were targeted by rocket fire, which it blamed on Tehran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies.

The incident came after weeks of rising tensions and followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a key 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a move Israel had long advocated.

The raids led to immediate calls for restraint from Russia, France and Germany.

“The escalation of the last hours shows us that it’s really about war and peace,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

The raids, which reportedly killed 23 fighters, were one of the largest Israeli military operations in the past few years and the biggest such assault on Iranian targets, the Israeli military said.

“We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman told a security conference. “I hope we’ve finished this episode and everyone understood.”

Israel carried out the raids after it said 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights at about midnight.

Israel blamed the rocket fire on the Iranian Quds Force, saying that its missile defense system intercepted four, while the rest did not land in its territory.

No Israelis were wounded.

If confirmed, the incident would be the first time Iran has sought to directly attack Israeli-controlled territory, aside from an alleged attempted drone attack in February.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of rockets were fired from Syria toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, but did not confirm they were fired by Iranian forces.

It said the rockets followed a “first Israeli bombardment on the town of Baath” in Syria’s Quneitra Governorate.

A senior pro-regime military source in Syria confirmed the salvo of rockets, but said that Israel had fired first.

Later, in the early hours of the morning, explosions were heard in Damascus, while live images were broadcast on TV showing projectiles above the Syrian capital and several missiles destroyed by anti-aircraft systems.

Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles had hit military bases, as well as an arms depot and a military radar installation, without specifying the locations.

“Dozens of missiles were shot down by anti-aircraft systems in Syrian airspace,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said, acknowledging that a number of missiles had reached their targets.

Israel’s military later confirmed it had carried out the raids, saying that about 70 targets had been struck and all of its aircraft had returned safely.

Intelligence, logistics and storage facilities and vehicles were targeted, as well as the origin of the rockets, an Israeli army spokesman said.

Syrian air defenses, which fired dozens of times on Israeli forces, were also targeted, he said.

“We don’t want an escalation, but won’t let anyone attack us or build an infrastructure to attack us in the future,” Lieberman said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said 28 Israeli F-15 and F-16 warplanes took part in the raids, firing a total of about 70 missiles.

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