Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had crossed a “red line” by firing rockets at Israeli forces from Syria, leading to major Israeli air strikes on Thursday in the neighbouring country.
“Iran has crossed a red line. Our reaction was a consequence,” the Israeli leader said in a video posted on social media.
“The Israeli army carried out an extensive attack against Iranian targets in Syria.”
Iran has not claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.
Israel carried out widespread deadly raids against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies.
Israel said 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights at around midnight.
It blamed the rocket fire on Iran’s Quds force, adding that Israel’s anti-missile system intercepted four while the rest did not land in its territory.
No Israelis were wounded.
“We are in a prolonged campaign and our policy is clear: We will not allow Iran to establish itself militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu said.
Israel launched air strikes on military installations in neighboring Syria on Thursday, killing at least 23 people.Israel says the attacks were retaliation for about 20 rockets it claims were fired into the Golan Heights by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps deployed in Syria.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Israeli strikes reached a wide area, including the vicinity of Damascus, the southern province of Quneitra and the central province of Homs. Iran’s military installations were among the targets, along with those of the Shia Muslim group Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Israel is reportedly alarmed by Iran’s increasing military presence in Syria and has repeatedly targeted Iranian installations there.
The reported Iranian attacks in the Golan Heights were the first since the United States announced its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Concerns are growing that the US pullout may deepen the conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was following the situation with utmost concern.
He noted that the UN Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, has maintained contact with forces from both sides.
Dujarric said Guterres urged an immediate halt to all hostile acts and provocative actions to avoid a new conflagration in the region, which is already embroiled in “terrible conflicts with immense suffering of civilians.”