White House Condemns Iran After Rocket Attack, 'Strongly Supports' Israel's Right to Self-defense

Moscow urges Iran, Israel to avoid 'spiral' of conflict ■ Germany accuses Iran of 'provocation' after attack on Israel ■ U.K. calls on Russia to rein in Tehran

Missile fire is seen from Damascus, Syria May 10, 2018.
\ OMAR SANADIKI/ REUTERS

The White House condemned Iran on Thursday, saying it "strongly supports" Israel's right to self-defense after a barrage of rockets targeted Israeli military outposts overnight. The White House also said Iran's Revolutionary Guard "bears full responsibility for the consequences of its reckless actions."

"The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East," the White House said.

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The U.S. also urged "all nations to make clear that the Iranian regime’s actions pose a severe threat to international peace and stability."

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a meeting with his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Moscow, Russia May 10, 2018.
\ SERGEI KARPUKHIN/ REUTERS

The European Union called reports about the Iranian strikes against Israel "extremely worrying" and said Israel had the right to defend itself.  It also called on all regional actors to show restraint and avoid any escalation. "Reports about last night's Iranian attacks against Israeli army posts from inside Syria, to which Israel responded by striking against Iranian targets in Syria, are extremely worrying," said a spokeswoman for the bloc's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. 

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said that the Israeli attack overnight represents a new stage in what they described as the offensive against Syria. According to a statement, "Israel's direct involvement, after years of acting secretly by supporting terrorist groups, represents the beginning of a new stage of aggression.

"This stage comes after the failure of terrorist groups, and the Syrian army will continue to deal with this aggression. Israel's actions will only increase tensions."

Iran targets Israel from Syria, Israel responds

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow has urged Iran and Israel to avoid acts that could lead to a spiral of conflict. He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter visited Moscow on Wednesday.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a press conference following a terror attack that killed 12 in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.
John MacDougall, AFP

Lavrov said that there should be no extra-territorial influence from the U.S. on Iran's partners, and that the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal is a violation of a UN resolution. 

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 were fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts.

The Israeli military accused the Revolutionary Guards' Al Quds force and its commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, of launching the attack at the Israeli Golan Heights. This is the first time Israel has directly accused Iran of firing toward Israeli territory.

Twenty-three fighters, among them 18 foreigners, were killed in the attack, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Syrian military said that three people were killed and two were wounded in the attack.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass, who was speaking with Lavrov in Moscow, said it is crucial that Iran sticks to its obligations under the international nuclear deal and Moscow can use its influence on Tehran in this respect.

Maas also said that Russia and Germany agreed that the Iran nuclear agreement should be upheld. 

Germany blasted Iran as France called for a de-escalation of tensions on Thursday after Israel said the Islamic republic launched an overnight rocket strike from Syria on an Israeli military base and that it had responded with its own missiles in the most extensive strike in a neighboring country in decades.

"These attacks are a serious provocation that we strongly condemn. As we have always emphasized, Israel has a right to self-defense," a spokesperson for the German foreign ministry said in a statement.

Commenting on the incident, the Germans said, however, that it is "crucial that there is no further escalation".

Britain also condemned Iran's attacks and called on Russia to use its influence in Syria to stop any further ones, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday.

"We condemn Iran's attack on Israel. Israel has every right to defend itself," the spokesman told reporters. "We call on Iran to refrain from any further attacks and for calm on all sides. We call on Russia to use its influence in Syria to prevent further Iranian attacks."

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

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"The president has been kept regularly updated. He calls for a de-escalation in the situation," Macron's office said in a statement. 

Macron will discuss the Middle East in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Thursday, the Elysee said.

The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on Iran to avoid any military provocations. In the statement, the French government reiterated its commitment to Israel's security and condemned any attempt to undercut it. The statement further said that France hopes for a renewal of negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program and its ballistic missile program.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves les Drian will speak with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, next week, the ministry said.

The deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said that diplomacy will not help Iran and that resistance is the only way forward.

"Iran's enemies are not seeking military confrontation," he said. "They want to pressure our country by economic isolation ... Resistance is the only way to confront these enemies, not diplomacy," he was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

He made the comments hours after Israel accused the elite Iranian forces of firing a barrage of missiles at the north, only a day after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran, sending shockwaves through the region.