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Syrian State Media SANA Syrian reported the country’s air defenses responded to an Israeli airstrike in the Dumair area, in the countryside by Damascus. The Israeli military said on Thursday it attacked a missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria in response to a missile launched from Syria striking southern Israel, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor.
The incident, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, pointed to likely Iranian involvement. Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria.
JERUSALEM (AP) Reported — A missile launched from Syria was fired into southern Israel early Thursday, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, the Israeli military said. In response, it said it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.
The rocket set off sirens in Abu Qrenet, a Bedouin settlement near the southern city Dimona (supposedly where Israel’s alleged nuclear program is). A boom was heard in parts of the Negev, and as far away as Jerusalem.
An Israeli military spokesman said the Syrian missile had been fired at Israeli aircraft during an earlier strike and had overflown its target and reached the Dimona area.
The errant Syrian missile was an SA-5, one of several fired at Israeli air force planes, according to the spokesman. It did not hit the reactor, landing some 30km (19 miles) away, he added.
Reuters reported about 90 km (56 miles) north of Dimona heard the sound of an explosion minutes before the military tweeted that sirens had gone off in the region.
Israeli media have said for weeks that air defenses around the Dimona reactor and the Red Sea port Eilat were being beefed up in anticipation of a possible long-range missile or drone attack by Iranian-backed forces – perhaps from as far away as Yemen.
Iran’s hard-line Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei suggesting Israel’s Dimona facility be targeted after the attack on Natanz. Zarei cited the idea of “an eye for an eye” in his remarks.
Action should be taken “against the nuclear facility in Dimona,” he wrote. “This is because no other action is at the same level as the Natanz incident,”
While Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.
Zarei has demanded retaliatory strikes on Israel in the past. In November, he suggested Iran strike the Israeli port city of Haifa over Israel’s suspected involvement in the killing of a scientist who founded Iran’s military nuclear program decades earlier. However, Iran did not retaliate then.
Reports from across the country, including central Israel and Jerusalem, spoke of “loud explosions” that “shook the houses.”
Early reports indicated that the explosion was the result of a Patriot missile battery – a missile defense system – responding to the firing of the missile into Israel. The IDF later confirmed the reports.
A Syrian military defector said the Israeli strikes targeted locations near the town of Dumair, some 40 km northeast of Damascus, where Iranian-backed militias have a presence. It is an area that Israel has hit repeatedly in past attacks.
Some news reported stated it was unclear at first where the missile was launched from. Several indications pointed to the missile being launched from Iraq, while according to other reports, it came from the city of Daraa in southern Syria following an Israeli airstrike.