Iran crossed a red line when it launched rockets at Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday after Israel conducted an overnight attack on Iranian targets in Syria in response to rocket fire toward military outposts in northern Israel.
"Iran crossed a red line," he said. "We responded accordingly. The IDF conducted a large-scale attack against Iranian targets in Syria."
Netanyahu said Israel had successfully repelled Iran's rockets, adding: "We are in a protracted campaign, and our policy is clear: Iran cannot be allowed to entrench itself militarily in Syria.
"Yesterday, I conveyed a clear message to the Assad regime: Our action is directed against Iranian targets in Syria. But if the Syrian army acts against us, we will act against it. That's exactly what happened yesterday. Syrian [anti-aircraft] batteries fired surface-to-air missiles against us, so we hit them."
- Iran's entrenchment in Syria set back months after most extensive Israeli strike in decades
- Iran's long arm: What is the elite Quds Force that attacked Israel from Syria
- Israel launches most extensive strike in Syria in decades after Iranian rocket barrage
"The international community should prevent the establishment of the Iranian Quds Force in Syria. We must untie to cut off the arms of this expanding evil, there and everywhere," the prime minister said. "I repeat: Whoever harms us – we will harm him many times over, and whoever prepares to harm us – we will act to harm him first. That's what we did and we will continue to do so."
Netanyahu and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May spoke Thursday evening, discussing Iranian aggression and developments in Syria. He told May that he appreciates the U.K.'s condemnation of Wednesday night's missile fire on Israel and Downing Street's statement that Israel has the right to defend itself.
Early Thursday, Israel attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in what the military said was the most extensive strike in the neighboring country in decades. The strike was carried out in response to a barrage of 20 rockets that was fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts.
Israel said the targets of the retaliatory attack included weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also said it destroyed several Syrian air-defense systems after coming under heavy fire.
It was the first time Israel directly accused Iran of firing towards Israeli territory. Tehran issued several threats over the past month, saying that it would hurt Israel in response to a slew of attacks that were ascribed to the Israeli air force.
The attack came on the heels of a Syrian report Tuesday accusing Israel of carrying out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israel.