A Syrian missile exploded in the area of the Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev Desert. The missile had targeted an Israeli F-16. The Israelis responded with an airstrike against the missile launcher and air defense systems in Syria.

An Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said that an SA-5 surface-to-air missile was launched from Syria. It flew about 125 miles to within 18 miles of the Dimona nuclear site where it exploded in mid-air. 

“A surface-to-air missile was fired from Syria to Israel’s southern Negev,” the IDF posted on Twitter.”In response, we struck the battery from which the missile was launched and additional surface-to-air batteries in Syria.”

The Syrian surface-to-air missile (SAM) was considered an “errant” miss. Interestingly, the missile was fired from 125 miles away in Damascus. This is a very long range for a SAM used for air defenses.

The Iranians have a military presence throughout Syria and they would probably have been involved in such a move.

According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an opposition watchdog on the Syrian civil war, the Israeli missiles hit the Syrian air defense base in the town of Dmeir, about 25 miles northeast of Damascus. Further, SOHR said that the strikes destroyed air defense batteries causing casualties.

Nevertheless, Syrian state news SANA said that “most” of the missiles were intercepted and that there were four soldiers wounded with some material damage. 

Israel has conducted numerous airstrikes in Syria. It has targeted military sites linked to the Iranian military and its proxy forces including the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, which is likewise a Syrian ally. Such strikes routinely draw Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

An Israeli F-16. This type of aircraft is frequently used in airstrikes against Iranian troops and proxies in Syria. (IDF)

Will Iran Take Revenge for Natanz?

This is another dangerous escalation between archenemies Israel and Iran. The Iranians have vowed retaliation for a series of accidents at their nuclear facility at Natanz. They claim that Israeli cyberattacks, with the complicity of the United States, sabotaged the facility.

Last week, Iran’s Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei suggesting Israel’s Dimona facility be targeted after the attack on Natanz. Zarei called for “an eye for an eye.”

Action should be taken “against the nuclear facility in Dimona,” he said. “This is because no other action is at the same level as the Natanz incident,” he added. 

Kayhan newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him.

Israel Is Bracing Itself for Missile Attacks

The Israeli army said it had deployed a missile defense system to intercept the projectile and that there had been no damage. Nonetheless, the Israeli military later said in a statement that an initial investigation indicated that the Syrian missile had not intercepted.

The air raid sirens were sounded in Abu Krinat, a village just a few miles from Dimona. Explosions heard across Israel might have been the air-defense systems.

Israeli media have been saying that the IDF has strengthened the air defenses around the Dimona nuclear reactor and the Red Sea port of Eilat in anticipation of a possible long-range missile or drone attack by Iranian-backed proxies. Such an attack could perhaps come from as far away as Yemen. 

Meanwhile, in Vienna, negotiators are trying to hash out an agreement to restart the Iran nuclear deal. The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has frequently said that the deal won’t stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons. And they have vowed that they won’t allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.