Arch-enemies Iran and Israel edged closer to all-out war on Thursday after Israel’s military said its positions in the Golan Heights were fired at with a barrage of Iranian rockets, prompting it to respond with extensive strikes targeting Tehran’s forces across Syria.
The attack, if confirmed, would mark the first time Iran has fired rockets in a direct strike on Israeli forces, dramatically ratcheting up what has for years been a conflict fought through proxies.
Several but not all of the Iranian rockets were intercepted by Israeli defences, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, told reporters.
“At approximately 12.10, 10 minutes past midnight, forces belonging to the Iranian Quds Force fired approximately 20 projectiles – most of them are probably rockets but that is yet to be determined – towards the forward line of IDF positions in the Golan Heights,” he said.
“So far we are not aware of any casualties, any IDF casualties,” he said. A preliminary assessment found there was minimal damage, he added.
Israel accused the general in charge of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ external operations branch of orchestrating the attack.
“It was ordered and commanded by Qassem Soleimani and it has not achieved its purpose,” Conricus said.
The occupied Golan Heights has been on high alert since Donald Trump confirmed he was pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal.
“The IDF views this Iranian attack very severely,” Conricus said. “This event is not over.”
In the early hours of Thursday morning, the IDF’s Arabic-language Twitter account said its military was “moving” against Iranian targets in Syria and warned Damascus not to intervene. Conricus said Israel had notified Russia before the strikes began. The military later said it had hit “dozens” of Iranian military targets in Syria.
The Syrian capital was shaken with explosions as jets flew overheard before dawn, with residents posting videos online of what appeared to be air defence missiles running bright streaks through the night sky and reporting loud sounds that rocked their buildings.
Syrian state media said its anti-aircraft batteries were responding to a “new wave of Israeli missiles and is dropping them one by one”. However, it added, missiles struck radar, air defence positions and ammunition warehouses. Explosives fired from Israel also hit southern Syria’s Quneitra province, adjacent to the Golan Heights, it said. There were no reported casualties.
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