International desk: Iran has denied Israel’s allegations that it launched rocket attacks on its forces in the occupied Golan Heights, calling the claims “fabricated” and “baseless”.
On Thursday, Israel launched a wave of attacks on what it called Iranian targets in Syria in response to alleged Iranian attacks that targeted the Israeli-occupied Syrian territory of Golan Heights for the first time.
It was the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries.
“The Zionist regime’s frequent attacks on Syria under fabricated and baseless excuses is a breach of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and in defiance of all international laws and regulations,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasem said.
Israel says it hit dozens of Iranian military targets, as well as five Syrian anti-aircraft installations in response to Iranian forces allegedly launching 20 rockets in the occupied Golan Heights.
Syrian state media reported that Syrian air defences had intercepted most of the incoming rockets over the capital, Damascus, but also confirmed that a radar station and a weapons storage site were struck.
Iranian state television reported that Syria had given a “crushing response”.
Qasem on Friday also condemned the international community’s silence over Israel’s attacks in Syria.
“Iran strongly condemns … [Israel’s] attacks on Syria. The international community’s silence encourages Israel’s aggression. Syria has every right to defend itself,” Iranian state TV quoted Qasemi as saying.
Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from Tehran, said that it’s important to note what wasn’t mentioned in the statement.
“[There was] no specific reaction to the specific allegations by Israel that it hit a large numbers of Iranian targets inside Syria and no specific response to Israeli allegations that Iran was behind the cross-border fire that happened and that it was Iran who shot first, so they are still holding their cards close to the chest here in Tehran.”
‘Iran crossed a red line’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened with further action in Syria, warning that the Israeli military will attack any nation targeting his country including preemptive strikes.
“Iran crossed a red line; our response was appropriate,” Netanyahu said during a press conference.
“The Israeli army carried out a broad strike, a very broad strike against Iranian targets in Syria. I send a clear message to the Assad regime that our actions are aimed at Iranian targets inside Syria but if the Syrian army will act against us, we will act against it.”
Israel has long warned of a growing Iranian threat inside Syria. The country’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at a press conference that Israeli forces had destroyed nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday.
“They must remember that if it rains here it will pour over there and I hope that we finish this chapter and that everyone got the message,” Lieberman said.
Al Jazeera’s Basravi said that the Iranian foreign ministry was pushing a very different narrative with their statement.
“[The statement] also went so far as to suggest that Israel, as part of its strategic depth in Syria, was backing groups like the Islamic State and the al-Nusra front. We have had reactions like that from leaders in Iran in the past with regards to Israel’s involvement in the country.”
As tensions between Israel and Iran continued to rise, the United Nations, Russia, France, Germany and Britain urged the two countries to avoid any further escalation.
US Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an immediate halt to “all hostile acts” to avoid “a new conflagration” in the Middle East.
Israel has called on the UN Security Council and secretary-general to condemn Iran’s attack, but the Security Council remains deeply divided over Syria and is highly unlikely to issue a statement. As of Friday morning, no council member has asked for a meeting.
Israel and Iran have long fought each other through proxies, and with the new exchange, each seemed to be sending a warning that a direct clash between them could swiftly escalate.