Ten killed in Israeli airstrikes in Syria in reply to rocket attack
Israel has carried out airstrikes in Syria in response to rare rocket fire from the neighbouring country. A war monitor reported that 10 people were killed, including Syrian soldiers and foreign fighters.
Israel’s army said two rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon, in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, late on Saturday and one was “located within Israeli territory”.
In response, the army attacked two Syrian artillery batteries, a number of observation and intelligence posts on the Golan Heights and an SA-2 aerial defence battery, it said.
The Israeli attack left three Syrian soldiers and seven foreign fighters dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
According to the UK-based monitor, they died in missile strikes close the capital, Damascus, where Syrian troops, Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters are stationed. The observatory did not specify the nationality of the foreign fighters killed.
Syria’s official news agency Sana quoted a military source as saying anti-aircraft defences fired against “enemy missiles” from Israel targeting positions in south-west Damascus.
The Israeli army said its own aerial defence systems were activated due to the Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but none of the Syrian fire hit Israel.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he had ordered the strike. “We won’t tolerate fire at our territory and will respond forcefully to any aggression against us,” he said.
Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, most of them against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Israel says it is determined to prevent its arch-foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran backs President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s eight-year war, which has killed more than 370,000 people.
Israel insists it has the right to continue to target positions in Syria held by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah out of self-defence.
On 27 May, Syria said Israel carried out a missile attack in Quneitra. The Israeli army said it was retaliation for anti-aircraft fire targeting one of its fighter jets.
Syrian air defence batteries intercepted projectiles from Israel and downed a number of them on 17 May, according to Sana.
The Syrian province of Quneitra includes the Golan Heights, most of which is occupied and annexed by Israel.
In January, Israel hit Iranian positions in Syria in response to missile fire. According to the observatory, 21 people, mainly Iranians, were killed in those raids.
The latest reported strike comes at a time of rising tensions between Iran and the US. The standoff has been simmering since the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear treaty between Iran and world powers. In recent weeks the US has accused Iran of alleged threats and deployed an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf.