Israel launches strikes on Syria after rocket fire as violence flares

Reuters  /  April 9, 2023

Attacks come amid sharply increased Israel-Palestinian tensions following Israeli raids this week on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Israeli jets hit Syrian military targets in response to rockets launched towards Israeli-controlled territory overnight, Israel’s military said, as violence flared again after cross-border exchanges of fire during the week.

State media in Syria reported explosions in the vicinity of the capital Damascus as Israel said its forces continued to hit Syrian territory after six rockets were fired overnight towards the Golan Heights.

Israel said artillery and drone strikes hit the rocket launchers and were followed by airstrikes against a Syrian army compound, military radar systems and artillery posts.

The Israeli military “sees the State of Syria responsible for all activities occurring within its territory and will not allow any attempts to violate Israeli sovereignty”, the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement.

The Syrian defence ministry said its air defences had responded to the Israeli attacks and intercepted some Israeli missiles. It said no casualties had been reported with only material damage caused by the strikes.

Sirens had sounded earlier near towns in the Golan Heights as rockets were launched from Syrian territory. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the 1,200-sq km (460 sq miles) territory in 1981, a move not recognised by most of the international community.

Only three of the rockets crossed into Israeli-controlled territory, with two falling on open ground and a third intercepted by air defence systems, the military said. Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV said the rocket salvoes were claimed by al-Quds brigades, the armed wing of the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

On Thursday, more than 30 rockets were fired towards Israel from southern Lebanon, drawing cross-border counter-strikes [sic] from Israel on sites linked to the Islamist movement Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza.

The cross-border exchanges came amid sharply increased tensions between Israel and Palestinian groups following Israeli police raids in recent days on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which caused outrage across the Arab world.

Despite fears of further violence around the mosque on Saturday, there were no reports of serious disturbances.

The site in Jerusalem’s Old City, holy to both Muslims and Jews, who know it as Temple Mount, has been a longstanding flashpoint, notably over the issue of Jewish visitors defying a ban on non-Muslim prayer in the mosque compound.

Clashes there in 2021 helped set off a 10-day war between Israel and Hamas and the exchange of cross-border fire this week Friday awakened memories of that conflict.

In a separate incident, a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli forces during a confrontation in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s military and the Palestinian Health Ministry said.