Israel has attacked Iranian targets in Syria following the shelling of the Golan Heights in retaliation. According to Defense Minister Lieberman, Iran’s entire infrastructure has been hit.

By Tim Aßmann, ARD Studio Tel Aviv

The attack came at night and probably unsurprising for Israel’s army. After several air strikes in Syria in recent weeks attributed to Israel, which also killed Iranian military personnel, the leadership in Tehran had announced retaliation and, according to the reading of the Israeli armed forces, the time had come.

Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said: “At 0.10 am local time, Iran’s Al Quds forces fired 20 missiles from Syria to the Golan Heights, targeting the first line of Israeli positions.” Some rockets were intercepted. On the Israeli side no one had been injured and only minor damage to property. “We consider this Iranian attack a serious incident,” Conricus said nonetheless.

Attacks on ammunition depots, accommodations and positions

Why the army is so sure that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds units shot down the missiles, Conricus did not say. In response to the bombardment, Israel’s air force attacked dozens of targets in Syria. Among them were, according to the army spokesman numerous Iranian military facilities such as ammunition depots, accommodation and positions.

According to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 23 people were killed in the Israeli attack. These are five Syrian soldiers and 18 fighters of Syrian allies. The Russian Defense Ministry said the operation involved 28 Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighters, which shot down about 60 to 70 missiles. In addition, Israel has launched more than ten tactical ground-to-ground missiles.

Israeli forces said it was a large-scale operation against the Iranian presence in Syria. Syrian air defense positions were also bombed. “We warned the Syrians to interfere, but they did it anyway,” Conricus said, adding that Russia had been informed in advance of the attacks. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov called for restraint and de-escalation after the Israeli and Iranian military intervention. “This is all very disturbing,” he told the agency Tass.

Iranian military presence not desired

The security situation had recently worsened. Israel has been largely unconfirmed by past attacks in Syria in recent weeks and months attributed to its Air Force, but repeatedly insists that it does not want to tolerate Iran’s continued military presence in its neighboring country.

It also reaffirmed Israeli intelligence minister Israel Katz after an air strike in Syria, for which Israel should be responsible. Minister Katz did not confirm that, but talked about possible backgrounds.

“It’s not about conquering Syria, it’s about the threat there is against us,” Katz said. “We can not accept that rocket deposits are kept, which can be replenished constantly.” Against this background, what happened there was of great importance. It is important “that we make it clear to the Iranians that they have no business in Syria,” says Katz. “The price is too high.”

Warning about large-scale confrontation

Is there now a threat of a large-scale military confrontation between Israel and Iran or one of its allies, such as the Shiite Hezbollah militia? Observers warn against this in Israel – also against the backdrop of the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran.

However, Amos Gilad, a former major general of the Israeli army, does not believe in an imminent war. The two parties are indeed on a collision course. “The good news is that Iranians, in my view, do not want a full confrontation right now, because the timing is unfavorable,” Gilad said. “You have to get stronger.” Israel is trying to prevent Iran from using its strength, “but we will not be able to prevent it from becoming stronger,” he says. “I do not expect a comprehensive war at the moment.” 

Nevertheless, security experts see an acute danger that the parties to the conflict are in an escalation spiral from which they can no longer find out. The Israeli army said after the attacks in Syria, to have no interest in a military escalation.