Rocket fire on north triggers Israeli attacks on targets in Syria
‘Iranian attack on Israel is clear proof of the purpose of Iranian entrenchment in Syria’
Smoke and fire billow during a reported Israeli air strike on the outskirts of Damascus. The Israeli army confirmed it attacked military sites in Damascus. Photograph: AFP
The army said its fighter jets hit multiple targets belonging to the Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, including surface-to-air missiles, weapons warehouses and military bases. After the Syrian military fired a surface-to-air missile at the Israeli jets, Israel said a number of Syrian air defence batteries were also destroyed. Israel said it had warned Syria not to fire the missile.
Col Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the significance of the operation was the multitude of targets hit, including what he described as the Iranian headquarters at Damascus airport where senior Iranian officials are based and which is used to co-ordinate shipments from Iran to its allies in Syria and beyond. He added that Israel also holds Syria responsible for hosting the Iranians.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said 21 fighters were killed, 16 of them non-Syrians, probably Iranians and Shia militiamen, along with two civilians.
Wednesday’s attack came after Israel successfully intercepted four rockets fired from Syria on Tuesday in an attack Israel blamed on Iran.
Israeli defence minister Naftali Bennett said the rules of the game had changed. “Whoever shoots at Israel in the day, won’t sleep at night. Our message to the leaders of Iran is simple: You are no longer immune wherever you send your tentacles – we will sever them.”
“Yesterday’s Iranian attack towards Israel is further clear proof of the purpose of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, which threatens Israeli security, regional stability and the Syrian regime,” the Israeli army said in a statement.
Russia controls air space over Syria and Israel and said Wednesday’s strikes were co-ordinated with “superpowers in the area”. Israeli military officials said the attacks were on sites that lay within 80km of Israel’s border – an area that Russia had pledged would be free from any Iranian presence.
However, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the Israeli air strikes were a “wrong move” that was in “stark contrast” to international law. He said this was the third time Israel had struck in Syria within a week, threatening regional stability.
There was no immediate response from Tehran but the Israeli military said it was preparing for a potential Iranian retaliation.
“We are ready for three scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response,” an Israeli military spokesman said. He also denied the strikes were politically motivated as Israeli politicians tried to form a coalition government.