Israel Strikes Syria in Response to Rocket Fire in the North

Attack on Israeli territory results in no damage; one person killed, seven wounded in Israeli strike, Syrian report says.

Ancho Gosh/gini

Israeli army artillery and warplanes struck in Syria on Thursday evening after four rockets were fired at the Galilee and the Golan Heights from Syrian territory.

One person was killed in the strike and seven others were wounded, the official Syrian news agency SANA reported early on Friday.

The rocket attack, which the Israel Defense Forces characterized as "deliberate and orchestrated," resulted in no casualties. The IDF also said that the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad fired the rockets "with Iranian funding and direction." 

Islamic Jihad denied the Israeli allegation, Reuters reported.

The IDF struck 14 sites in an area under Syrian regime control in the Golan Heights from which the rockets were fired. The IDF Spokesman said in a statement that "the army sees Syria as responsible for the fire, and it will pay the price for it."

Syrian state TV confirmed on Thursday the Israeli air strikes on the Golan Heights. The report quoted a military source as saying that "several missiles" had targeted a transportation center and a public building in the Quneitra area of the Syrian Golan Heights. 

The IDF claims the rocket fire was planned by the chief of the Palestinian department in the Iranian Quds Force, Sayyid Izdi. A senior IDF officer said Izdi was involved in arms smuggling in Syrian and Lebanon.

According to the officer, the Israeli attack was relatively extensive, compared to previous IDF responses to fire from Syria. Tanks, artillery and aircraft struck Syrian army targets both near the Israeli border and several kilometers deep into Syrian territory.

The officer said the attack on Israeli territory was not in response to any Israeli act. "It isn't 'out of the blue,' it's out of the Syrian reality," the officer said, adding that the Iranians are motivated by wanting the Golan Heights' internal strife to extend to the area of the border with Israel.

It is possible that the artillery fire was a response to an alleged Israeli attack on the border between Syria and Lebanon last week. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine group claimed the Israeli air force attacked one of its facilities near the city of Zabadani.

About three weeks ago, it was reported that three members of the National Defense Committees – a group affiliated with the Syrian regime – were killed in an Israeli strike near the village of Khader in the Golan Heights.

Though the IDF said it was Islamic Jihad who was behind the artillery attack, army officers said the attack was believed to be unrelated to the group's threats against Israel should Palestinian administrative detainee Mohammed Allaan die as a result of his prolonged hunger strike. Allaan was a member of the Islamic Jihad, and is still in contact with the group, according to the Shin Bet.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in response that "the Iranian regime, through Quds Force, its commander Qassem Suleimani and its emissaries in Syria and Lebanon, is seeking to open a terrorist front against Israel from the Golan Heights." According to Ya'alon, the nuclear deal with Iran and the lifting of the sanctions over it means the attack on Israeli territory could be "the prelude to a richer and more murderous Iran."

The IDF has responded in the past to incidents they see as "crossing a red line," or direct attacks on Israel. In the past, the Israeli army has attacked targets belonging to the Syrian Army in response to firing at Israel on the Golan Heights. The defense establishment considers such attacks on the Golan as terrorist attacks, with Iran being behind them.

The IDF notes there are a number of groups operating on the Syrian side of the border Samir Kuntar's militia and that of Mustafa Mughniyeh, the brother of Jihad Mughniyeh who was killed in January in an attack attributed to Israel; as well as local Palestinian groups.