War looms as Is­rael re­tal­i­ates against Ira­ni­ans

Jerusalem launches largest air strike in Syria since 1973 war, hit­ting 70 Ira­nian bases and targets

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Raf Sanchez in Jerusalem and Roland Oliphant in the Golan Heights

Is­rael and Iran lurched closer to all-out war yes­ter­day af­ter the Is­raeli mil­i­tary claimed it struck “al­most all” of Iran’s bases in Syria in re­sponse to what it said was an Ira­nian rocket bar­rage fired at the Golan Heights. It was Is­rael’s largest wave of airstrikes in Syria since the 1973 war.

IS­RAEL and Iran lurched closer to all­out war yes­ter­day af­ter the Is­raeli mil­i­tary claimed it struck “al­most all” of Iran’s bases in Syria in re­sponse to what it said was an Ira­nian rocket bar­rage fired at the Golan Heights.

The ex­change of fire was the most di­rect con­fronta­tion be­tween the two Mid­dle East ri­vals af­ter years of stand­off in Syria and came one day af­ter Don­ald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nu­clear agree­ment and reim­posed sanc­tions on the regime.

Is­rael car­ried out its largest wave of air strikes in Syria since the 1973 war, hit­ting around 70 Ira­nian mil­i­tary bases, sup­ply de­pots, and in­tel­li­gence sites, as well as Syr­ian regime air defence bat­ter­ies, its mil­i­tary said.

“We ... struck al­most all the Ira­nian in­fra­struc­ture in Syria, and they need to re­mem­ber this ar­ro­gance of theirs,” said Avig­dor Lieber­man, the Is­raeli defence min­is­ter. “If we get rain, they’ll get a flood.”

The at­tacks were in re­sponse to a bar­rage of 20 rock­ets that Is­rael said were fired by Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard to­wards the Golan, a moun­tain­ous re­gion that Is­rael an­nexed from Syria af­ter cap­tur­ing it in 1967.

There were no ca­su­al­ties on the Is­raeli side. The coun­try’s mil­i­tary said its Iron Dome mis­sile defence sys­tem in­ter­cepted four of the rock­ets just af­ter mid­night yes­ter­day, while the other 16 fell harm­lessly in Syr­ian ter­ri­tory.

At least 23 peo­ple were killed by the Is­raeli strikes, ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights. It was not clear how many of the dead were Ira­ni­ans. Iran has nei­ther con­firmed nor de­nied that it was re­spon­si­ble for launch­ing the at­tacks.

Is­rael has said re­peat­edly it will not al­low Iran to build up a per­ma­nent mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syria and is pre­pared to go to war to stop it.

“Who­ever hurts us, we will hurt him sev­en­fold. Who­ever tries to hurt us, we will act to hurt him be­fore­hand,” said Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter.

Ten­sions be­tween the two sides have risen sharply since April 9, when a sus­pected Is­raeli strike on the T4 air­base in cen­tral Syria killed at least seven Ira­ni­ans. Iran vowed re­venge and Is­rael has been warn­ing for weeks that it was ex­pect­ing an Ira­nian at­tack.

Bri­tain and the US were quick to is­sue mes­sages of sup­port for Is­rael and con­dem­na­tion of Iran. “The United King­dom con­demns in the strong­est terms the Ira­nian rocket at­tacks against Is­raeli forces,” said Boris John­son, the Foreign Sec­re­tary. “We strongly sup­port Is­rael’s right to de­fend it­self.”

Mean­while, Theresa May spoke to Mr Ne­tanyahu by phone to ex­press her sup­port and to con­demn the Ira­nian at­tacks, while re­it­er­at­ing the UK’S sup­port for the Iran deal.

Both the UK and US called on Rus­sia to do more to rein in Iran’s pres­ence in Syria and avoid a fur­ther es­ca­la­tion. An­gela Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, also con­demned the at­tack in a call to Has­san Rouhani, the Ira­nian pres­i­dent.

The Is­raeli at­tacks are likely to strain the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Iran and Rus­sia, which are fight­ing on the same side in Syria on be­half of the As­sad regime.

Is­rael warned Rus­sia of its in­ten­tion

‘Who­ever hurts us, we will hurt him sev­en­fold. Who­ever tries to hurt us, we will act to hurt him be­fore­hand’

‘The UK con­demns in the strong­est terms the Ira­nian rocket at­tacks against Is­raeli forces’

to launch strikes but Rus­sian forces in Syria appear to have done noth­ing to shield their Ira­nian al­lies. Hours be­fore the at­tack, Vladimir Putin hosted Mr Ne­tanyahu as an hon­oured guest at a mil­i­tary pa­rade in Moscow.

While Is­rael has scored tac­ti­cal mil­i­tary vic­to­ries over Iran in Syria, it has strug­gled with a broader diplo­matic campaign to con­vince world pow­ers to clamp down on Tehran. Mr Ne­tanyahu trav­els reg­u­larly to Moscow but his diplo­matic efforts have so far yielded few vis­i­ble re­sults.

Is­rael is also likely to have been em­bold­ened by the ar­rival in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of John Bolton, the new na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and Mike Pom­peo, the sec­re­tary of state, who take a much more hawk­ish ap­proach to Iran than their pre­de­ces­sors.

Mean­while, Bahrain voiced sup­port for Is­rael’s strikes, in an un­usual ex­am­ple of an Arab state pub­licly ap­plaud­ing Is­rael for drop­ping bombs on the ter­ri­tory of a fel­low Arab state. Bahrain, Saudi Ara­bia and other Gulf na­tions share many of Is­rael’s fears about Iran.

An Is­raeli sol­dier on guard at the Golan Heights, above, amid height­ened ten­sion af­ter rock­ets were fired from Da­m­as­cus, Syria, top left. Is­rael blamed the at­tacks on Iran, a claim nei­ther con­firmed nor de­nied by Tehran

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.