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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Israel strikes back after attacks on Golan Heights blamed on Iranian forces in Syria  

Late-night incidents follow a surge in tensions between Israel and Syria, including an alleged attack on Tuesday

Israeli war planes were targeting Syrian territories with rockets early on Thursday for the second time in the week. National air defences were responding, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.

Israeli war planes were shooting rockets from inside the Occupied Palestinian territories and targeting the city of Baath in Quneitra province, that had also been shelled shortly after midnight, SANA said.

The Syrian official news Agency reported that the Israeli attacks are targeting “some of [our] air force battalion units” and is attempting to destroy radar systems. The report also claimed that Assad air defences intercepted tens of Israeli missiles.

SANA also confirmed that Israeli missiles had hit arms depot and multiple checkpoints

State-run al Ikhbariya TV broadcast a live feed of the air defences as they were confronting the Israeli rockets.

The Israeli army has threatened the Syrian regime not to respond to the attack, or else they will face dire consequences. The goal of these attacks seems to be Iranian assets in Syria, not Assad.

Earlier on Thursday morning, Iranian forces on the Syrian-held side of the Golan Heights had shelled Israeli army outposts on the strategic plateau but caused no casualties, the Israeli military said.

Israel had already retaliated for that attack, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said, without elaborating. It is not known whether that retaliation referred to the later attacks.

epa06724102 A long exposure picture shows Israeli artillery deployed missiles toward Syrian military targets, on the Golan Heights, next to the Israeli-Syrian border 10 May 2018. Israeli spokesperson said that the defense systems identified approximately 20 rockets launched by the Iranian Quds forces at Israeli army forward posts on the Golan Heights. A number of rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system. No injuries were reported. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
A long exposure picture shows Israeli artillery deployed missiles towards Syrian military targets, on the Golan Heights, next to the Israeli-Syrian border. Atef Safai / EPA

The late-night incidents follow a surge in tensions between Israel and Syria, where Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces have been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion.

Fearing that Iran and Hezbollah are setting up a Lebanese-Syrian front against it, Israel has occasionally struck at their forces. Iran blamed it for an April 9 air strike that killed seven of its military personnel in Syria, and vowed revenge.

Lt-Col Conricus said that, in Thursday’s attack, around 20 projectiles, most likely rockets, were fired by the Quds Force, an external arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, at around 12.10am.

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“A few of those rockets were intercepted” by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, Mr Conricus told reporters. “We are not aware of any casualties. The amount of damage that we currently assess is low.”

Asked if Israel retaliated for the salvo, he said: “We have retaliated but I have no further details about this.”

Expectations of a regional flare-up were stoked by president Donald Trump’s announcement on Tuesday that he was withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal. Hours later, an Israeli air strike in Syria killed 15 people, including 8 Iranians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Israel has neither confirmed or denied responsibility for that attack.

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