(JTA) – Iranian troops reportedly fired a barrage of 20 missiles at Israel, and Israel responded by bombing Iranian military targets in Syria.
The missiles were launched from Syria early Thursday morning. None of them hit Israel. Israel’s missile defence system intercepted four of them, and the rest landed in Syrian territory, according to Israeli news reports. No Israelis were hurt in the attack.
Israel is blaming the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps for the attack.
In response, Israel bombed a range of Iranian military targets in Syria. This appears to be the first time Iranian forces have directly attacked Israel. For years, Iranian proxies have attacked Israel, but this time, Israel is directly blaming Iran for the attack.
According to Haaretz, Israel’s response attack in Syria was its most extensive since the end of the Yom Kippur War in 1974. Israel bombed weapons storehouses, logistics sites and intelligence centers, as well as Syrian missile defence systems. An IDF spokesperson called it one of the biggest Israeli Air Force operations of recent years.
“We hit almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday at the Herzliya Conference, a security and defence convention. “They should understand that if we get rain, they will get a flood.”
Israel and Iran have been at odds for years. Tensions between the two countries have escalated in recent months as Iran has entrenched itself in Syria, where it is a principal ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Israel has allegedly carried out countless strikes in Syria against Iranian infrastructure and weapons transfers to Syrian and Iranian proxies. In February, an Iranian drone was shot down over Israeli territory.
Fears of war have increased further in recent days, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday of the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Anticipating a possible Iranian strike in retaliation for the decision, Israel told residents of the Golan Heights to open their bomb shelters Tuesday.
Israel is the United States’ closest ally in the region and has fiercely opposed the agreement, which rolled back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. After the missile barrage Thursday, the White House said Israel had a right to defend its citizens.
“The United States condemns the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens, and we strongly support Israel’s right to act in self-defence,” said a White House statement. “The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East.”
The use of “Israeli citizens” instead of “Israel” suggested that the Trump administration, like its predecessors, rejects Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. However, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, in a tweet, appeared to refer to the area as sovereign Israel.
“We stand by Israel’s right of self-defence to protect its nation, its people, and its sovereignty,” Pence said in a tweet that quoted the White House statement.