Calls for restraint after Israeli raids on 'Iranians' in Syria
Jerusalem, May 11 : Israel carried out widespread deadly raids against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire towards its forces it blamed on Iran, drawing global calls for restraint.
The reported exchange of fire came after weeks of rising tensions and followed US President Donald Trump's decision Tuesday to withdraw from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a move Israel had long sought.
The bombardment led to calls for calm from Russia, France, Germany and Britain and the European Union, while the United States put the blame squarely on Iran and stressed Israel's right to "self-defence".
Germany and Britain joined the United States in denouncing the rocket fire towards the Israel-occupied Golan Heights they also said was carried out by Iran, while France reiterated its "unwavering support for Israel's security".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had "crossed a red line" and that the resulting bombardment against targets in Syria "was a consequence" on Thursday.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call that he did not want "new tensions" in the Middle East.
Rouhani did not mention of Israel's strikes in Syria, or those against the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
But the chairman of his country's parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Allaeddine Boroujerdi, condemned the strikes, warning that "Israel has entered a dangerous game".
The Israeli raids in Syria, which a monitor said killed 23 fighters, were one of the largest Israeli military operations in recent years and the biggest such assault on Iranian targets, the Israeli military said.
"We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria," said Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
"I hope we've finished this episode and everyone understood." Israel carried out the raids after it said 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the Golan Heights at around midnight.
It blamed Iran's Quds force, adding that Israel's anti-missile system intercepted four while the rest did not land in its territory.
There were no Israeli casualties.
If confirmed, it would be the first time Iran has sought to directly attack Israeli-controlled territory aside from an alleged attempted drone assault in February.
"We know that comes from the Al-Quds force," army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said, referring to the special forces unit affiliated with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported that dozens of rockets were fired from Syria towards the Israeli-occupied Golan, without saying who fired them.
It said the rockets followed a "first Israeli bombardment on the town of Baath" in Quneitra province.
A senior pro-regime military source in Syria confirmed the salvo of rockets, insisting Israel had fired first.
Later, in the early hours of the morning, explosions were heard in Damascus, while live images were broadcast on television showing projectiles above the capital and several missiles destroyed by anti-aircraft systems.
Syrian state media said Israeli missile strikes had hit military bases as well as an arms depot and a military radar installation, without specifying where.
The official SANA news agency said "dozens of missiles were shot down by anti-aircraft systems in Syrian airspace", acknowledging a number had reached their targets.
Israel's military later confirmed it had carried out the raids, saying some 70 military and intelligence targets had been struck and all of its aircraft had returned safely.