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BY BBC NEWS,10TH MAY 2018-Israel says it has struck almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria, in response to an Iranian rocket attack on the occupied Golan Heights.
The Israeli military said 20 rockets were fired by Iranian Revolutionary Guards at its positions overnight.
It retaliated by targeting what it said were Iranian weapons depots, logistics sites and intelligence centres.
There was no immediate comment from Iran, which has sent troops to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian state media reported that the army’s air defences had repelled an “Israeli aggression” on Syrian territory, shooting down scores of missiles.
But a military source told the official Sana news agency that some missiles had hit a number of air defence battalions, radars and an ammunition depot.
Israel has vowed to stop what it considers its arch-enemy’s “military entrenchment” in Syria, and it is believed to have carried out several strikes on Iranian facilities, including one on an airbase in April that killed seven Revolutionary Guards.
What happened in the Golan?
Israel occupied most of the Syrian Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move not recognised internationally.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that early on Thursday morning about 20 rockets had been launched at its forward posts in the occupied Golan by members of the Revolutionary Guards’ overseas operations arm, the Quds Force.
IDF spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said four rockets were intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome aerial defence system, while the others fell short of their targets. No injuries or damage were reported.
The rocket attack was ordered by the commander of the Quds Force, Gen Qassem Soleimani, Col Conricus said, adding that it had “not achieved its purpose”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the civil war in Syria, confirmed that “dozens of rockets” were fired from Quneitra province and the south-western Damascus countryside towards the occupied Golan.
It did not identify the forces responsible, but it said the rocket attack came after Israeli forces bombarded Baath, a Syrian-controlled town in in the Golan demilitarized zone.
A senior source in an Iranian-led regional military alliance that supports Syria’s government also told AFP news agency that Israeli forces had fired first.
How did Israel respond to the rocket fire?
An IDF statement said fighter jets had struck “dozens of military targets” belonging to Iran inside Syria. They included:
- Intelligence sites associated with Iran and the “Radical Axis” – a term Israeli officials use to refer to an alliance between Iran, Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas
- A logistics headquarters belonging to the Quds Force
- A military logistics compound in Kiswah, a town south of Damascus
- An Iranian military compound north of Damascus
- Quds Force munition storage warehouses at Damascus International Airport
- Intelligence systems and posts associated with the Quds Force
- Observation and military posts and munition in the Golan demilitarised zone
- The Iranian launcher from which the rockets were fired overnight
The IDF said it had also targeted several Syrian military air defence systems after they fired at the Israeli fighter jets despite an Israeli “warning”.
Later, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told a conference in the town of Herzliya that the IDF had “hit almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria”.
“They must remember that if it rains here [in Israel], it will pour there,” he said. “I hope that we have finished this chapter and that everyone got the message.”
Mr Lieberman stressed that while Israel had “no interest in escalation”, it had to “be prepared for any scenario”. “We are facing a new reality where Iran is attacking Israel directly and trying to harm Israel’s sovereignty and territories,” he added.
The latest confrontation came a day after a reported Israeli strike in Kiswah, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said had targeted an Iranian weapons depot and killed 15 pro-government fighters, including eight Revolutionary Guards.
Why does Israel hit Iranian interests?
Iran is Israel’s arch-foe and has repeatedly called for an end to the existence of the Jewish state.
It is a key ally of Syria’s president and has deployed hundreds of troops to the country. It says they are there as military advisers to the Syrian military.
Thousands of militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran have also been fighting alongside the Syrian army.
While supporting Mr Assad, Iran has significantly increased its military presence in Syria – something Israel considers a direct threat.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously warned that Israel might go to war with Iran “sooner rather than later” to stop it attacking.
Mr Netanyahu was also instrumental in persuading the US to end its participation in the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.