Jerusalem/Beirut (Reuters): Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria yesterday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.
It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since the start of its war in 2011 in which Iranians, allied Shi’ite Muslim militias and Russian troops were deployed in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Army Command said Israel’s attack killed three people and injured two others. A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes killed at least 23 military personnel, including Syrians and non-Syrians.
Expectations of a regional flare-up, amid warnings from Israel that it was determined to prevent any Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, were stoked by US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Tuesday (8 May) that he was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers.
The Trump administration portrayed its rejection of that agreement as a response, in part, to Iran’s military interventions in the Middle East, underpinning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tough line towards Tehran.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Iranian rockets either fell short of their targets military bases in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights or were intercepted.
The Golan attack was “just further demonstration that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted and another good reminder that the president made the right decision to get out of the Iran deal”, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News.
Israel said 20 Iranian Grad and Fajr rockets were shot down by its Iron Dome air defence system or did not reach targets in the Golan territory Israel captured from Syria in a 1967 war.
The Quds Force, an external arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, carried out the rocket salvo, Israel said.
Syrian state media said Israel launched dozens of missiles and hit a radar station, Syrian air defence positions and an ammunition dump, underscoring the risks of a wider escalation involving Iran and its regional allies.
The foreign ministry said the attack indicated “the start of a new phase of aggression” against Damascus.
Russia’s defence ministry said Syria had shot down more than half of the missiles fired by Israel, the RIA news agency reported.