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Iranian forces fire on Israeli positions in occupied Golan

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Iranian forces in Syria have fired around 20 rockets and missiles at Israeli army positions in the part of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel, the Israeli army said, reported The New Indian Express (India).

The missiles, some of which were intercepted by Israel's anti-missile system, did not cause any casualties, army spokesman lieutenant-colonel Jonathan Conricus told journalists.

He added that the Israeli army responded, but did not explain the nature of the retaliation.

The rockets were fired shortly after midnight (2100 GMT Wednesday) by men from the Iranian al-Qods brigade at the front lines of the Israeli army in Golan.

"We know that comes from the al-Qods force," Conricus said, adding: "The Israeli army takes very seriously this Iranian attack against Israel."

This incident comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran over the situation in Syria after several operations attributed to the Israeli army against Iranian interests in the war-torn country.

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The Israeli army said that it set back Iranian military capabilities in Syria by “many months” with overnight strikes on “dozens” of targets affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards’ al-Quds Force following an attempted large-scale rocket attack on Israeli territory, reported The Times of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces stressed that it was not seeking an escalation of hostilities with Tehran, after some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces from southern Syria just after midnight, prompting extensive Israeli retaliatory raids.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said no rockets made impact in Israeli territory. Four projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and the rest fell in Syria, he said. The rockets included both Grad and Fajr-5 models, according to the military.

The IDF said the initial missile barrage was launched out by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ al-Quds Force. It appeared to be the first time Israel attributed an attack directly to Iran, which generally operates through proxies.

The overnight exchange was the largest-ever direct clash between the Iranian and Israeli militaries, and appeared to be the largest exchange involving Israel in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

There were no reports of Israeli casualties in the attack. An IDF spokesperson said “limited” damage was caused to Israeli military bases.

In response, Israel launched an extensive retaliatory campaign, striking suspected Iranian bases throughout Syria for hours, an Israeli military spokesperson said, warning Syrian dictator Bashar Assad not to get involved.

In all, Israel carried out dozens of raids against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces’ intelligence centers, weapons depots, storage facilities, observation posts, and logistics centers in Syria, as well as the rocket launcher, the IDF said.

It was the “largest such operation [by Israel] against Iranian targets,” Conricus said, confirming that the strike was coordinated in advance with Russian forces in Syria.

“All of the targets that we engaged were effectively destroyed,” he added, causing “significant damage” to the Iranians.

The IDF spokesperson said the Iranians still retained military infrastructure to attack Israel, which was being monitored, but that the Israeli strikes set them back by “many months.” He said Israel was not seeking a confrontation but would respond to any attempts to challenge its sovereignty.

“The IDF will not tolerate this Iranian presence on the Golan and in Syria,” Conricus said.

In a statement, the IDF said it also attacked Syrian air defense batteries that had fired at Israeli planes despite the prior warning not to do so.

“The Iranian attack on Israel last night is further clear proof of the intentions behind the Iranian forces’ establishment in Syria and the danger they pose to Israel and regional stability,” the military said. “Furthermore, the IDF considers the Syrian regime responsible for what transpires in its territory.”

Arabic media reports confirmed that the IDF struck numerous targets across Syria, including weapons depots and Assad regime radar and air defense systems.

Syria’s state news agency, after initially reporting that the country’s air defenses were intercepting dozens of “hostile Israeli missiles,” later said Israeli jets hit military bases, as well as an arms depot and military radar, without specifying the locations.

Syrian rebels said the strikes targeted three airfields: the Shayrat air base, which was targeted by the United States last year for its role in an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun; the Tha’lah air base, in southwest Syria, which has been tied to Hezbollah; and the Mezzeh military air field outside Damascus, which is reportedly home to Assad’s elite republican guard.

A large Israeli bombing raid was also reported near the northwestern Syrian town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border, a known Hezbollah stronghold.

High alert
In the days and weeks before the Iranian barrage, defense officials repeatedly warned that Israel would respond aggressively to any attack from Syrian territory.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow about Iran’s “explicit goal of attacking the State of Israel as part of their strategy to destroy the State of Israel,” he said. Netanyahu told reporters after the meeting that Putin was receptive to Israel’s demand that it be allowed to operate freely in Syria’s skies in order to defend itself.

In light of the exchanges of fire, numerous cities and towns in northern Israel decided to open their public bomb shelters, though the army did not require all of them to do so. In one case, residents of the northern Israeli town of Metula, along the Lebanese border, were instructed to take shelter after a loud explosion was heard in the area. They were later cleared to leave as no signs of impact were found.

Shortly before 3 a.m., a loud blast was also heard in the northern city of Safed, prompting its mayor to release a statement to residents reassuring them that the explosion was “not a missile strike or anything else, but rather an IDF launch from our area.”

Residents of central Israel reported hearing fighter jets flying overhead.

Tehran has repeatedly vowed revenge after the T-4 army base in Syria was struck in an air raid — widely attributed to Israel — on April 9, killing at least seven members of the IRGC, including a senior officer responsible for the group’s drone program.

It apparently attempted to exact that revenge at 12:10 a.m. on Thursday, with its bombardment on Israeli military bases on the Golan Heights.

Sirens blared across the Golan Heights throughout the exchange, sending residents into bomb shelters. The IDF Home Front Command called on residents to adhere to security instructions as needed. Residents of the Golan Heights were told they could leave the bomb shelters around 2 a.m., but were instructed to remain near the fortified areas until further notice.

The pro-Syrian government Al-Mayadeen TV said more than 50 missiles — not 20, as the IDF said — had been fired from Syria toward Israeli forces on the Golan Heights. A Syrian parliamentarian claimed on Twitter that Damascus, not Tehran, had launched the attack.

Immediately following the barrage, Syrian state media reported that Israeli artillery fire targeted a military post near the city of Baath in the Quneitra border region, where Syrian regime forces were stationed.

In the hours that followed, the Israeli retaliation expanded to include more artillery strikes and aerial bombings, according to Syrian reports.

Following the initial exchange, Conricus, the IDF spokesperson, said the army was still sorting out many of the specific details related to the missile attack, such as which army bases were targeted, what types of projectiles were used, how many were fired, where they were launched from, and how many were intercepted.

A video shared on social media shortly after midnight on Thursday appeared to show the barrage of missiles apparently being fired by a multiple launch rocket systems, or MLRS, from Syria toward Israel.

Residents of both the Israeli and Syrian Golan Heights reported hearing loud, repeated explosions.

The attack came a day after the military called on local governments on the Golan Heights to open bomb shelters, in light of “abnormal” activities by Iranian forces in Syria. The barrage also followed US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Tuesday night that he was pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

On Tuesday, eight Iranians were among 15 foreign pro-regime fighters killed in a suspected Israeli strike in Syria on a weapons depot of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, a monitor said. The raid struck the area of Kisweh south of Damascus late Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Wednesday.

Syria’s official news agency SANA said on Tuesday that the army had intercepted two Israeli missiles fired toward Kisweh, with state television broadcasting images of fires in the nearby area.

Since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Israel has repeatedly targeted positions of the Syrian army and the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group backing it inside the country.

On April 29, missile strikes — “probably Israeli” — fired on regime military positions near the cities of Hama and Aleppo in northern Syria killed at least 26 mostly Iranian fighters, according to the Observatory.

On April 9, missiles targeted the T-4 air base in the central province of Homs, killing up to 14 fighters, including seven Iranians, two days after an alleged chemical attack carried out by the Syrian regime.

Russia, Iran and Syria accused Israel of carrying out the strike.

In light of both the general tension and specific intelligence, the IDF went on high alert this week, deploying additional missile defense batteries in northern Israel. “There is high preparedness of IDF troops for an attack,” the army said on Tuesday.

A number of army reservists were called upon Tuesday night, the army said. An IDF spokesperson would not elaborate on which units they came from, but media reports indicated they served in air defense, intelligence and Home Front Command units.

On Sunday night, Israeli defense officials warned that Iran was planning to retaliate for recent airstrikes attributed to Israel in Syria, by having its proxies fire missiles at military targets in northern Israel. Security forces were also preparing for the possibility of attempted infiltrations of military bases and communities in the north, Hadashot TV news reported.

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: several explosions rocked the central sector of Al-Quneitra countryside today evening, Wednesday the 9th of May 2018, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored that the explosions were caused by rocket targeting by the Israeli forces on positions of the regime forces and their allies near al-Baath city in the central countryside of Al-Quneitra, without information about casualties so far, amid the overflight of Israeli warplanes over the occupied Golan on the border with Al-Quneitra, while the Syrian Observatory published today that the number of casualties continues to rise as a result of the missile strikes that targeted al-Kiswah area in the southwest sector of Rif Dimashq, which were carried out by Israeli forces targeting Iranian missile warehouses and platforms, where it rose to at least 15 including at least 8 Iranians, the number of members who were killed by the missile strikes on the area, while it is not known yet whether the rest of them belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or if they belong to a militia loyal to Iran, also a man and his wife were killed near place of shelling but the circumstances of their deaths are not known whether they were killed the result of a traffic accident, or it happened that they were there in the moment of shelling which caused their deaths, and the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation, and due to the presence of missing persons.

These strikes comer 9 days after similar strikes against the regime and Iran sites in several Syrian areas, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored great human and material losses as a result of the rocket targeting to the Brigade 47 controlled by Iranian forces and regime forces in the southern countryside of Hama, where the SOHR documented the death of 26 members at least including 4 Syrian fighters and the rest are of Arab and Asian nationalities, the greatest portion of whom are Iranian, all were killed as a result of the targeting which took place yesterday, Sunday the 29th of April 2018, and no planes were noticed flying over the area at the time of the bombardment, where the bombardment targeted depots of ground-to-ground missiles belonging to the Iranian militiamen which caused great explosions in the area, accompanied by the breakout of fire in it, while the number of casualties is expected to increase due to the presence of more than 60 injured an missing people, some of whom have seriously wounded, in addition to information about other casualties, also a similar rocket shelling targeted the area of Nairab Military Airbase in Aleppo province in the evening of the same day, also it is noteworthy that violent explosions rocked the eastern desert of Homs before the dawn of Monday the 9th of April 2018, caused by rocket targeting that it is not known whether they were winged missiles or missiles fired by warplanes, as no information about executing party was reported yet, and the missiles have targeted the campus and vicinity of T4 Military Airbase in the eastern countryside of Homs controlled by the regime forces backed by armed militiamen loyal to them of Syrian, Arab and Asian nationalities, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned that the missiles left a number of casualties and wounded, where 14 members at least of the regime forces backed by armed militiamen loyal to them of Syrian, Arab and Asian nationalities, were killed, where Hezbollah, Iranian forces and regime forces are located in T4 Airport which is considered a military base, and the targeting also caused damage to vehicles in the area.

Also it is noteworthy that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published on the 10th of February 2018, that 6 members at least of the gunmen loyal to the regime of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities including members of the regime forces, were killed in the air strikes which were carried out by Israeli warplanes on several Syrian areas, where these airstrikes targeted by 3 consecutive rounds since dawn on Saturday the 10th of February 2018; the area between the outskirts of T4 Airbase and al-Bayyarat area in the eastern countryside of Homs, and al-Dimas area in the northwest of Rif Dimashq, and the administrative borders between Daraa and Rif Dimashq, also others were injured in these airstrikes, and the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored on the same date, a series of targeting hit areas in the districts of Damascus and its countryside, as the SOHR monitored that the Israeli warplanes targeted the outskirts of T4 Airport from the side of Al-Bayyarat area in Homs Desert, in which Iranian forces, the Lebanese Hezbollah and regime forces are located in the area which was targeted, and the targeting resulted in the fall of injuries in the ranks of the regime forces and their allies amid information about the death of some of them affected by the injury they had, followed by a new round of Israeli targeting to areas in the south-western outskirts of the capital near the administrative borders of the southern Syrian provinces, followed by targeting to areas where positions of the regime forces and their allies are located, Al-Dimas area on Damascus – Beirut Road near the Syrian – Lebanese border, while the Israeli bombardment accompanied by sounds of explosions caused by shelling by the regime’s air defense system, while Israeli warplanes were watched flying over Syria after the 3 rounds of targeting.
(http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=91677)

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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