After Iranian Missiles, IDF Hits Dozens of Targets in Syria

YERUSHALAYIM -
Missiles seen over Damascus, Syria, last night. (Hezbollah Media Office/Handout via Reuters)

The IDF said in a statement Thursday that it had hit “dozens” of targets belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria overnight Wednesday. The targets were hit after Iran fired some 20 rockets at Israeli targets on the Golan Heights. Most of the rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome and Patriot missile interceptor systems. All Israeli planes returned home safely, the army said.

Channel Ten reported that some 50 targets were hit by IDF fire in the attacks. An IDF official told Channel Ten that “Israel had planned in advance which targets to hit. It will take the Iranians a long time to recover the infrastructure that was destroyed.” Both the United States and Russia were updated on the IDF action, the official said.

While air raid sirens sent Golan residents to bomb shelters Wednesday night, Thursday would be a normal day, the army said. Schools were open, farmers were told they could go to work, and businesses were operating normally. Officials told residents to stay close to the nearest protected area, and to be prepared to take shelter if necessary.

Among the targets hit by the IDF were missile and ammunition storage silos and warehouses, an Iranian base north of Damascus, a weapons warehouse at Damascus’s main civilian airport, intelligence facilities and lookout posts operated by Iranian troops, and a logistics center south of Damascus. There was no word on the number of casualties, if any, in the attacks.

Speaking Thursday at the Herzliya security conference in Tel Aviv, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Israel “needs to be ready for all scenarios. We need to be very careful and cautious, and very specific in our targets. We have no interest in taking over Syria.” Nevertheless, he said, “if they rain missiles on us, they will have a flood.”

The Golan attack was “just further demonstration that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted and another good reminder that the president made the right decision to get out of the Iran deal,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News.

Israel said 20 Iranian Grad and Fajr rockets were shot down by its Iron Dome air defense system or did not reach targets in the Golan.

The Quds Force, an external arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, carried out the launch, Israel said.

Syrian state media said dozens of Israeli missiles struck a radar station, Syrian air defense positions and an ammunition dump, underscoring the risks of a wider escalation involving Iran and its regional allies.

“We hit … almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Liberman said. “I hope we finished this chapter and everyone got the message.”

IDF spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters the Iranian attack was “commanded and ordered by [Quds Force Chief General] Qassem Soleimani and it has not achieved its purpose.”

Conricus said Israel responded by destroying dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian anti-aircraft units that tried unsuccessfully to shoot down Israeli planes.

“We do not know yet the [Iranian] casualty count,” he said. “But I can say that in terms of our purpose, we focused less on personnel and more on capabilities and hardware … to inflict long-term damage on the Iranian military establishment in Syria. We assess it will take substantial time to replenish.”

The Israelis fear that Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are turning Syria into a new front against them. Israel says its occasional strikes in Syria aim to foil that.

Iran vowed retaliation after a suspected Israeli airstrike last month killed seven of its military personnel in a Syrian air base.

Israel regards Iran as its biggest threat, and has repeatedly targeted Iranian forces and allied militia in Syria.

On Tuesday, hours after Trump’s announcement on the nuclear deal, Israeli rockets targeted a military base in Kisweh, a commander in the pro-Syrian government regional alliance said.

That attack killed 15 people, including eight Iranians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, though the commander said there were no casualties. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.

Thursday’s conflagration came hours after Netanyahu returned from a visit to Moscow, where he discussed concerns about Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin.