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Iran Fires Rockets Into Golan Heights From Syria, Israelis Say

JERUSALEM — Iranian forces in Syria fired about 20 rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights early Thursday, targeting forward positions of the Israeli military, according to a military spokesman.

The spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said Israel had responded to the attack but did not provide details. He said that the episode was not over.

If confirmed, this would be the first rocket attack carried out directly by Iran, rather than by one of its proxies, against Israel.

Colonel Conricus said that several of the rockets had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. He said that he was not aware of any casualties and that the assessment of damage to Israeli facilities was low.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it “views this event with great severity and remains prepared for a wide variety of scenarios.”

Israel and Iran have been conducting a shadow war in Syria under the cover of that country’s civil war. As Iran has tried to build up its military capabilities inside Syria, Israel has carried out scores of strikes to try to stop it.

The rocket attack on Thursday appeared to come in response to Israeli strikes on positions in southern Syria on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that explosions rang out in Al Baath, a village in the Syrian Golan Heights, late Wednesday after it was hit by missiles from Israel. The observatory, which is based in the United Kingdom but tracks the conflict in Syria through contacts on the ground, said it did not have any information on whether any one was killed in the strike.

Israel had been bracing for a retaliatory attack from Syrian territory after a number of deadly strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. But analysts said the Iranians had been restrained from striking back while awaiting President Trump’s decision on whether to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement on Tuesday.

An apparent Israeli missile strike south of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Tuesday, an hour after Mr. Trump’s announcement, killed 15 people, at least eight of them Iranians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

That strike, on the area of Al Kiswa, targeted facilities for the Syrian military and their Iranian allies.

Until Thursday, the biggest clash between Israel and Iran came in a series of heated exchanges in February, when Israel said it intercepted what it called an armed Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace from Syria.

The Israeli military retaliated by sending fighter jets into Syria, one of which crashed in northern Israel after coming under heavy antiaircraft fire. It was believed to be the first Israeli plane lost under enemy fire in decades.

Israel has long accused Iran of carrying out attacks on Israeli targets outside of Israel. The most notorious was the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed at least 85 people and wounded hundreds, regarded as the worst terrorist attack in Argentina.

The Israelis also have accused Iran’s leaders of complicity in attacks targeting Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia in 2012.

They also have accused Iran of involvement, through the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, of attacking a bus full of Israeli vacationers in Bulgaria in 2013.

Iran, which considers Israel an illegitimate country, has called Israel’s accusations specious and has blamed Israeli operatives for attacks inside Iran, notably the assassinations of five nuclear scientists, mostly by car bombs.

Ben Hubbard contributed reporting from Beirut, and Rick Gladstone from New York.

Source: NYT > World

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