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Israel strikes 'dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in retaliation for rockets'

Raf Sanchez
Israel said it targeted the Quds Force in Syria - Reuters

Israel said it struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria early on Wednesday in retaliation for rockets fired by Iranian troops into the Golan Heights a day earlier. 

Several Syrian regime air defence batteries were also destroyed after Bashar al-Assad’s forces fired on the raiding Israeli warplanes, the Israeli military said. 

Syrian state media claimed two civilians were killed in the attack.

The strikes punctured what has been a period of relative quiet in Israel’s air campaign against Iran in Syria. Israel’s government says it can accept the Assad’s victory in Syria’s civil war but cannot tolerate Iran using Syrian territory as a base for attacks against Israel.

The strikes came 24 hours after several rockets were fired from Syria into the Golan Heights, the strategic high ground captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 war. 

Israel said the rockets were the work of the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guard’s elite expeditionary unit which leads Iran’s operations in Iraq and Syria.  

Syria said two civilians were killed during the Israeli strikes Credit: SANA via AP

“I have made clear that any who attack us - we will attack them,” said Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. “That is what we did tonight towards military targets of the Iranian Quds force and Syrian military targets.”

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said they targeted Iranian surface-to-air missiles, headquarters, weapons warehouses and military bases during the raid. 

There was no immediate response from Iran. 

Syrian air defence systems fired on the attacking Israeli aircraft “despite clear warning refrain from such fire,” the IDF said. Several missile batteries were targeted as a result. 

The Syrian regime claimed to have intercepted several of the incoming Israeli missiles, though such claims from Damascus are often false. 

Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks against Iran and its Hizbollah proxies in Syria in recent years.

The latest strike comes at a sensitive political moment in both Iran and Israel. 

More than 100 people have been killed during large anti-government protests in Iran which broke out this week, according to Amnesty International. The protests were sparked by a spike in fuel prices.

"The Israeli airstrikes come at a difficult time for Iran, the question is whether Israel wants to try and take advantage of the fact that Iran is facing multiple waves of unrest to increase its air campaign against Tehran and its proxies," said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence for Le Beck, a geopolitical and security consulting firm.

"While this may sound like a good idea, it’s also a risky one: Iran could have an interest in responding more forcefully than before, to try and divert attention away from the wave of protests in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran."

Meanwhile, Israel will find out today whether Benny Gantz, Mr Netanyahu’s centrist rival, has succeeded in forming a government. If he does not, it is likely the country will head to an unprecedented third election in less than a year.