Israel strikes Damascus’ military targets in retaliation for rocket fire by ‘Iran-funded militants’
Israel has pounded with artillery and launched airstrikes against 14 Syrian military positions in Golan Heights, holding Damascus responsible for failing to prevent a rocket attack on Israeli territory which the IDF pinned on an “Iran funded Islamic Jihad” group.
According to IDF sources, the air force and artillery struck “five or six times” in the Syrian Golan, hitting Damascus’s military facilities in the area. Two of the rockets allegedly struck open areas in the Golan Heights and two others landed in the Upper Galilee far from the border with Syria. In addition to Golan airstrikes by the Israeli military, unconfirmed reports emerged that the IDF also targeted Syrian 137th Regiment near Damascus.
“We attacked with tanks, artillery, and one target from the air... We attacked several kilometers into Syria, five or six sites with multiple targets within each site. Our attacks are much more severe this time around, in order to send a message and underscore the severity of this incident,” Israeli military said, as quoted by Ynetnews.
Update: Following today's Iran-sponsored Islamic Jihad rocket attack, the IDF targeted 14 Syrian military posts in the Golan Heights.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 20, 2015
“The [Israeli] army sees Syria as responsible for the fire, and it will pay the price for it,” the IDF statement said. The Israeli army also said that the rockets were fired by the Islamic Jihad movement “with Iranian funding and direction.”
Thursday assault on Israel caused no injuries or damages and came several hours after Israel deployed Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in Ashdod and Be’ersheba.
According to the IDF, earlier rockets came to Israel from the central part of the Golan Heights controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, and were fired by the Islamic Jihad militants.
Confirmed: Rockets earlier today were fired by Iran funded Islamic Jihad. Syrian government is responsible for attacks emanating from Syria.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 20, 2015
However, despite their previous threats of retaliation against Israel for the detention of Mohammed Allan – an alleged member of the group, who had been on hunger strike since June – the Islamic Jihad denied the Israeli claims of their responsibility.
“Israel is trying to divert attention from the defeat that it suffered in the face of the determination of the hero prisoner, Mohammed Allan,” Dawoud Shehab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman in Gaza told Reuters. Allan ended his strike on Wednesday after an intervention by the Israeli court system.
READ MORE: Palestinian detainee ‘ends 65-day hunger strike’ as arrest warrant suspended by Israeli court
The statement by Islamic Jihad, which has previously acknowledged receiving funds from Tehran, seems to hold ground, as Thursday night’s strikes are the first major assault of that frontier on Assad controlled territory, which has been largely quiet for almost a decade.
The IDF claims, according to Haaretz, that the rocket assault on Israel was premeditated and planned by the chief of the Palestinian department in the Iranian Quds Force, Sayyid Izdias, who is accused of being involved with arms smuggling in Syrian and Lebanon.
“The Iranians want to heat up the front against us in the northern and southern Golan,” a military source told Ynetnews, adding that the retaliatory strikes by the IDF were part of a newly organized large scale attack plan against targets in Syrian Golan, which was prepared by the Northern Command.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Israel has concentrated their efforts on protecting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, about 16 km (10 miles) to the east, which has witnessed a number of rocket attacks from within Syrian territory.