A missile launched from Syria struck southern Israel early Thursday, triggering air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, the IDF said. In response, he said he attacked the missile launcher and air defense systems of neighboring Syria.
The incident, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, underscored Iran’s likely involvement. Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria, has accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including the sabotage of its nuclear facility at Natanz on April 11, and has vowed revenge. He also threatened to complicate US-led attempts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.
The IDF said the missile landed in the Negev region and air raid sirens sounded in Abu Krinat, a village just a few kilometers from Dimona, where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, and explosions have been reported across Israel. The military later said the incoming missile caused no damage.
The IDF initially described the fired weapon as a surface-to-air missile, which is typically used for air defense against fighter jets or other missiles. This could suggest that the Syrian missile had targeted Israeli fighter jets, but missed and flew off erroneously. However, Dimona is about 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of Damascus, a long range for an erroneously fired surface-to-air missile.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said four soldiers were injured in an Israeli strike near Damascus, which also caused damage. The agency did not specify other than to claim that its air defense had intercepted “most of the enemy missiles”, which it said had been fired from the Golan Heights annexed by Israel.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the missile strike or comment from Iran. But on Saturday, the radical Iranian newspaper Kayhan published an opinion piece by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei suggesting that the Israeli installation of Dimona was targeted after the attack on Natanz. Zarei cited the idea of an “eye for an eye” in his remarks.
Measures should be taken “against the Dimona nuclear installation”, he wrote. “This is because no other action is on par with the Natanz incident.”
The Dimona reactor is widely believed to be the centerpiece of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Israel neither confirms nor denies having a nuclear arsenal.
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Although Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, has been appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as his advisor in the past.
Zarei has demanded retaliatory strikes against Israel in the past. In November, he suggested that Iran strike the Israeli port city of Haifa over Israel’s alleged involvement in the murder of a scientist who had founded Iran’s military nuclear program decades earlier. However, Iran did not retaliate at that time.
Israel and Iran are great enemies. Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and has opposed US-led efforts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran. With Israel’s encouragement, then President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.
Iran recently began enriching a small amount of uranium to 60% purity, the highest level ever for its program which comes even closer to military grade levels. However, Iran insists that its program is for peaceful purposes. He also called for a more in-depth international review of the Dimona facility.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that Israel will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and defense officials have admitted to preparing possible attack missions against Iranian targets . Israel has twice bombed other countries in the Middle East to target their nuclear programs.
All of the incidents come as Iran negotiates in Vienna with the world powers over the United States, potentially reinstating its ragged nuclear deal with the world powers. Negotiators there have described the talks as constructive so far, although they recognize that Natanz’s sabotage could strain the talks.
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The Israeli government says the deal will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear capability. He also says he does not address Iran’s long-range missile program and its support for hostile proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.
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