Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rockets Fired At Israel's North, Israel Retaliates By Hitting Positions On Syrian Golan, Army Says Iran Behind Rocket Fire

Islamic Jihad shot rockets at Israel's north on Iran's behalf, IDF says | The Times of Israel

Four rockets landed in northern Israel Thursday afternoon after being shot from Syria, sparking fires but causing no injuries.

The rockets landed in the northern Galilee and Golan Heights, the Israeli military said in a statement.
“We consider Syria to be responsible for the fire and it will also suffer the results,” the army said in a statement slightly after 8 p.m.
The statement was followed by reports of Israeli shelling in Syria, according to Israel’s Army Radio.
The rockets landed after sirens sounded in several communities around Israel’s north at about 5:45 p.m.
The Israeli military confirmed in a statement that “four rockets were launched from the Syrian Golan Heights, landing in the upper Galilee and the Israeli Golan Heights.”
No injuries were reported, the army said.
Two of the rockets landed near a kibbutz in the Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee, according to Israeli media reports.
If the rockets were shot intentionally from Syria, it would be the first time sine 1973 that Israel was purposefully targeted by rockets from Syria. Stray mortar shells from internecine fighting in Syria occasionally explode in Israeli territory.
An Israel Radio report said the rockets were artillery shells.
The attack came amid peak tourism season for the north, when thousands of vacationing Israelis flock to lodges and camping sites in the verdant region.
The Upper Galilee Regional Council instructed residents to remain near safe places after the attacks.
Israeli troops recently held a large-scale drill in Israel’s north to prepare for the possibility of a large scale attack from either Syria or Lebanon, including the possibility of an Israeli offensive into Syria.
Officials have warned for over a year that Iranian backed terror groups, including Hezbollah, were using Syria’s power vacuum to set up squads to carry out attacks against Israel from the Syrian Golan.

The Israeli military carried out “widespread” strikes inside Syrian territory Thursday, employing artillery fire as well as air strikes, officials said, in a bid to send a strong message to the Syrian regime that further cross-border attacks would not be tolerated.
A senior military official told Ynet news that around six targets had been hit with multiple strikes each, including Syrian army weapons facilities and antenna arrays.
“This is a widespread attack both in its scope and in its targets,” the official said. He explained that the harsh response to four rockets fired from Syrian territory earlier in the day was intended “to get across the message” that Israel would not abide by such incidents.
Syrian state television confirmed the strikes, and said damage had been caused to facilities. It said there were no casualties in the attacks. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier that a number of Syrian soldiers had been injured or killed.
The army had earlier blamed Syrian operatives of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group for the rocket attack and said they were receiving orders and finances from Iran.
An unnamed senior Israeli official told Channel 2 news that the Israeli response may include more than artillery fire. He did not elaborate.
Eli Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council, told Channel 2 residents were prepared for such attacks due to the deteriorating situation in Syria.
“We trust the Israel Defense Forces and the government to respond forcefully to destroy targets from which rockets were fired at Israel, and to prevent the development of a terror infrastructure” in the area, he said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and top military officials visited the northern border and warned that Iranian money freed up in the nuclear deal would be funneled to terror groups on Israel’s borders.
“We are ready for any eventuality. Those who try to attack us – we will hurt them,” Netanyahu said.

A commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards orchestrated Thursday’s rocket fire on northern Israel from Syria, military sources said late Thursday night, prompting an unusually strong response from the Israel Defense Forces.
According to a senior Israeli security official, Saeed Izadi, the head of the Palestinian Division of the Iranian al-Quds Force planned the attack. It was carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terror group that operates mostly out of the Gaza Strip, but whose headquarters are in Damascus. The Islamic Jihad has denied its involvement.
Throughout the Syrian civil war, mortar shells have occasionally strayed into Israel, but this was not the case on Thursday when four rockets struck the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights, the official said.

“We understand that this attack was clearly a deliberate one,” he said.
Israel held the Syrian government responsible for the attacks, retaliating with its largest assault on Syrian territory in decades. 

The IDF fired artillery shells and launched airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, hitting 14 military posts in the Syrian Golan Heights, the defense official said.
The strikes hit artillery batteries near the city of Quneitra, several army outposts and communications antennae, local news sites reported.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned the rocket fire was merely a “coming attraction” for future Iranian-funded attacks on Israel. With sanctions relief as part of the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran will increase support for its Middle East proxies, he maintained.

“What we have seen tonight is just a coming attraction for a richer and more murderous Iran,” Ya’alon said in a statement.
“This is the intention of the bloody regime from Tehran, and the Western world cannot just sweep that fact under the rug,” he added.
Nadav Pollak, a senior researcher at the Washington Institute, told The Times of Israel that the use of rockets, instead of mortar shells, was intentional.
This is a way for the [Iranian] Quds Force to say, “You know that it was us, but the rockets prove that it was,” Pollak explained. If mortars had been used, he said, it may have been thought to be errant fire.
‘It’s the IDF saying, ‘OK, you crossed a line.”

This was a much larger assault in response than the IDF has carried out in the past in Syria, Pollak said.

South Korea fired a barrage of artillery rounds into North Korea on Thursday after the North shelled across the border to protest against anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts by Seoul, moves that raised tensions on the divided peninsula.
Washington urged Pyongyang to halt any "provocative" actions in the wake of the first exchange of fire between the two Koreas since last October. Both sides said there were no casualties or damage in their territory.
North Korea did not return fire but warned Seoul in a letter that it would take military action if the South did not stop the broadcasts along the border within 48 hours, the South's Defense Ministry said.

In a separate letter, Pyongyang said it was willing to resolve the issue even though it considered the broadcasts a declaration of war, South Korea's Unification Ministry said.
North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un, would put his troops on a "fully armed state of war" starting from 5 p.m. on Friday and had declared a "quasi-state of war" in frontline areas, Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency reported.
Such language is often used by North Korea in times of tension with the South.
A South Korean military official said the broadcasts would continue. Seoul began blasting anti-North Korean propaganda from loudspeakers on the border on Aug. 10, resuming a tactic that both sides had stopped in 2004.

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