Iranian forces in Syria launched a rocket attack on Israeli army bases in the early hours of Thursday as Israel said Iran launched a barrage of 20 missiles toward its positions on the Golan Heights since the conflict there began in 2011.
The Syrian state news agency, however, reported that it was Israel that had fired on targets near the town of Quneitra, located just east of the Golan Heights. Syrian air defenses had responded, it said. It later reported a “new wave” of attacks.
The Israeli miliary said it “views this event with great severity and remains prepared for a wide variety of scenarios.”
An Israeli official said Israel was targeting Iranian positions inside Syria. Syria’s state news agency SANA quoted a Syrian military official as saying Israeli missiles hit air defence positions, radar stations and a weapons warehouse, but claiming most incoming rockets were intercepted.
Syria’s state media said Syrian air defences had intercepted “hostile Israeli missiles” early Thursday that was fired over southwestern Damascus. Hours later, state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast a live feed of Syrian air defences firing into the sky above the capital, and loud explosions and air defence firing were heard through the night.
Syrian activists reported Israeli airstrikes hitting targets near Damascus. One video posted online showed a large explosion and shrapnel flying in the air. Residents reported loud sounds that rocked their buildings. It was not immediately clear what was hit.
The Israelis fear that Iran and its Lebanese guerrilla 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 air strike last month killed seven of its military personnel in a Syrian air base.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and discuss military coordination in Syria.
Russia has also sent forces to Syria to back Assad. But Israel and Russia have maintained close communications to prevent their air forces from coming into conflict.