On Tuesday, Iranian Quds Forces launched, from Syrian territory, four missiles at targets in Israel. The Israelis’ reaction was swift. They retaliated early on Wednesday morning by attacking dozens of Syrian air defense and Iranian forces targets within Syria.
According to a statement by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israel’s airstrikes targeted missile launchers, weapons warehouses that store missiles, command centers, and bases. Syrian media reported that two people were killed and several wounded when an Israeli missile hit a civilian house in Saasaa, outside of Damascus. However video footage has surfaced that shows, instead, a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground into the residential neighborhood.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) that monitors the fighting reported that 11 people, including seven non-Syrians (Iranians), were killed in the attacks.
In a series of messages on social media, the Israelis stated that “We just carried out wide-scale strikes of Iranian Quds Forces & Syrian Armed Forces targets in Syria in response to the rockets fired at Israel by an Iranian force in Syria last night.”
“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 posted on Twitter early Wednesday. “We will continue operating firmly and for as long as necessary against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”
“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,” the IDF added on Twitter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement following Israel’s response: “I have made clear that any who attack us — we will attack them. That is what we did tonight towards military targets of the Iranian Quds force and Syrian military targets.”
SANA, the government-run Syrian news agency, quoted a source in the military, stating: “At 1:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Israeli warplanes… targeted the vicinity of the city of Damascus with a number of missiles. Our air defense confronted the heavy attack and intercepted the hostile missiles, and was able to destroy most of them before reaching their targets.”
The military source also stated that the attacks came from Lebanon and Palestine, as the Israelis often launch airstrikes from over Lebanese or Palestinian airspace.
All of this latest violence began during the early morning hours when Iranian Quds forces launched four rockets from Syria targeting Israeli, specifically the Golan Heights. Air raid warnings and sirens were sounded in the Golan Heights and the Galilee regions at 4:52 a.m. Citizens were rushed into bomb shelters.
All four missiles were intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome air defense system.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett stated after the latest airstrikes that “the rules have changed: Anyone who shoots at the State of Israel during the day will not sleep at night. Like last week and now this week. Our message to Iran’s leaders is simple: You are no longer immune. Wherever you stretch your tentacles-we will hack them off. The IDF will continue to protect Israeli citizens “
The intriguing part of this latest operation was the clear admission by the Israelis that they conducted these airstrikes — not that there was any doubt, but Jerusalem rarely, if ever, comments on any airstrikes.
Israel has conducted numerous attacks on Iranian targets in Syria over the past several years, attacking Quds forces that support both the Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad terror groups in Lebanon and Gaza.
The timing of the rocket attacks on Israel has led many to believe that is was in retaliation for the announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 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.
Pompeo’s announcement rejected a 1978 State Department legal opinion that stated that civilian settlements in Gaza are “inconsistent with international law.” The White House is 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.
It isn’t entirely clear if the rocket attacks were the result of the White House’s announcement but the Israelis aren’t backing down. IDF Spokesperson Brig.Gen. Hidai Zilberman minced no words while speaking of the situation.
“We will not let Iran entrench in Syria,” Zilberman said, adding that the IDF “is prepared to respond harshly to further attacks if necessary. We will not accept an Iranian force near our borders and will continue to work against it.”