The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it carried out “wide-scale strikes” of targets in Syria belonging to Iranian forces and the Syrian regime, in response to the four rockets launched into Israel in the overnight hours.
The targets reportedly included missile launchers, warehouses that stored weapons, command centers and bases.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday night, the IDF wrote, “We just carried out wide-scale strikes of Iranian Quds Force & Syrian Armed Forces targets in Syria in response to the rockets fired at Israel by an Iranian force in Syria last night.”
“During our strike of Iranian & Syrian terror targets, a Syrian air defense missile was fired despite clear warnings to refrain from such fire. As a result, a number of Syrian aerial defense batteries were destroyed,” another IDF tweet said.
Syria’s state SANA news agency said two people were killed by shrapnel when an Israeli missile hit a house in the town of Saasaa, southwest of Damascus. The report also said several others were wounded in the airstrikes near the capital, Damascus. It claimed that Syrian air defenses destroyed most of the Israeli missiles before they reached their targets.
A Britain-based war monitoring group reported that 11 civilians, including seven non-Syrians who were likely Iranians, were killed in the attack.
Four rockets launched from Syria into Israel early Tuesday were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the Israeli Defense Force said in a statement.
“We hold the Syrian regime responsible for the actions that take place in Syrian territory and warn them against allowing further attacks against Israel,” the IDF tweeted Wednesday. “We will continue operating firmly and for as long as necessary against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”
The announcement by the IDF was a rare admission of military action in the Arab state, The Times of Israel reported, adding that Jerusalem has carried out hundreds of attacks in the war-torn nation, mostly against Iranian targets, but hardly ever confirm any specific strike.
“I have made clear that any who attack us — we will attack them,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “That is what we did tonight towards military targets of the Iranian Quds force and Syrian military targets.”
The four rockets were fired from Syria early on Tuesday hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement on Monday that the U.S. government will ease its stance on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, essentially undermining Palestinian claims regarding land sought for a future state. It was not clear whether the rocket launch was directly linked to the announcement.
Pompeo essentially rejected a 1978 State Department legal opinion holding that civilian settlement in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.” He also said the White House was reversing an Obama administration directive that allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law.
While the new announcement received praise from Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who called it “historic,” the international community, which overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal, is not taking the news favorably.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki rejected the announcement in a lengthy statement and called on the international community to “respond firmly to such destructive behavior by supporting Palestine’s efforts at the international level to protect the two-state solution.”
“Allowing this agenda to prevail would ensure the demise of the international order and cause irreversible damage to the achievements of humanity over the past seven decades and threatens to plunge the world into chaos and violence,” he added.
On Monday, The U.S. Embassy in Israel issued a travel warning to Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, cautioning about Palestinian unrest following Pompeo’s announcement.
Last week, the Israeli military carried out a pair of targeted airstrikes on senior Islamic jihad commanders in Gaza and in Syria. This prompted militants in Gaza to send a barrage of rockets over the border, with 90 percent intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the IDF said.
An Israeli airstrike killed Bahu Abu al-Atta and his wife in their home in eastern Gaza Tuesday, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesman, said. Syrian officials said another Israeli airstrike in Damascus targeted another Islamic Jihad commander, Akram al-Ajouri, who was not harmed. Israeli warplanes fired three missiles at al-Ajouri’s home, killing his son and granddaughter, according to Syria’s state-run news agency.
It all comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iranian proxies along its borders. Netanyahu has issued a series of warnings recently about Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East.
Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and expertise.
The Israeli army confirmed in August that it launched an attack into Syria in an effort to foil a planned drone strike organized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz reported. That attack killed three people, Syrian opposition activists said.