Most intense Israeli incursion since 1973 follows Iran’s alleged firing on Golan Heights
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.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through a network of sources, said the Israeli strikes had killed at least 23 fighters, including government troops and allied forces. It did not say if Iranians were among the dead.
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.”