Syria Rockets Launched by Same Group That Attempted Drone Attack, Israeli Defense Officials Believe

Israeli army estimates Hezbollah and Iran will carry out another attack in Israel's north following strike on Shi'ite forces in Syria that killed 18 militia members

Israeli military vehicles are positioned near Kibutz Merom in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on the border with Syria, September 9, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

Israel’s defense establishment assessed that the failed rocket fire toward Israel's north overnight Sunday was launched by the same Iranian-linked militia that was planning a drone attack on the Golan Heights last month. According to estimates, the rockets were in response to a strike on an Iranian base on the Syria-Iraq border a few hours earlier.

On Monday morning, the Israel Defense Forces reported that it had identified several rocket launches directed at Israel. This was a volley of Grad rockets, launched from the Aqraba area southeast of Damascus, the same area in which the IDF foiled an earlier attempt by Quds forces and Shi’ite militias to attack Israeli targets from Syria using drones.

All the rockets launched Monday morning fell within Syrian territory, two kilometers from the border with Israel. Israel’s air defense systems detected the launches and saw that the rockets would land outside Israel, so no sirens were sounded and no intercepting missiles were launched, the military said, adding that it “sees Syria as responsible for any operations taking place in its territory.”

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A few hours earlier, Syrian opposition forces reporting that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had attacked militias associated with Iran in eastern Syria. Foreign reports indicate that the attack, which took place in the Albukamal area on the Syrian-Iraqi border, led to the death of 18 members of an Iranian-controlled militia called the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Israeli intelligence experts believe that the commander of the Al-Quds force, Qassem Soleimani, believed Israel was responsible for the attack and decided to respond quickly, in order to establish a new equation, in which each attack is met with retaliation.

In the past, Iran responded to attacks by firing at Israel’s north with rockets that were either intercepted or fell in Syria. This time, however,  Iran and its militias managed to respond relatively quickly, Israeli defense officials noted. 

The IDF is maintaining high alert in the north after the latest attack, assessing that regional escalations have not run their course, and that further Hezbollah and Iran attacks are possible.