Israel accused Iran and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad of deliberately orchestrating Thursday afternoon’s rocket attack along its northern border with Syria.
“We have credible information that the attack was carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization and was facilitated and directed by an Iranian operative Saeed Izaddhi, who heads the Palestinian unit in the Al-Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Foreign Ministry said in a message to the six world powers that signed a deal with Iran last month.
All four rockets were launched against Israel from Syrian territory; two fell in the Israeli part of the Golan Heights and another two in the Upper Galilee. It was the first time that rockets fired from Syria landed in Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the IDF said.
An Israeli retaliatory air strike within the Syrian Golan Heights on Friday morning killed at least four members of a cell that fired the rockets, Israeli security officials said.
“Earlier this week, I said we will harm those who try to harm us, and that is what we did,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the retaliatory strike. “We have no intention to escalate the incident, but our policy remains firm.”
“Those states who are rushing to embrace Iran should know that it was an Iranian commander that sponsored and guided the cell [in Syria] that fired on Israel,” said Netanyahu, who ordered the Foreign Ministry to send a message to this effect to the P5+1 countries that signed the deal with Iran: the US, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.
“This is another clear and blatant demonstration of Iran’s continued and unabating support and involvement in terrorist attacks against Israel and the region in general,” it said.
The UN and US called for “maximum restraint” after Thursday’s rocket attack from Syria into northern Israel, but remained silent on Jerusalem’s charges that Iran orchestrated the incident.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on Israel and Syria “to prevent any further escalation in an already tense regional environment.”
Lebanese media released video of Syrian anti-aircraft batteries firing at Israel Air Force units in response.
The cell was hit while they were traveling in a vehicle in the central part of the Syrian Golan Heights, the IDF said.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Proser said Thursday’s attack was “not a spillover from the ongoing war in Syria, but a deliberate attack on Israel.”
“These attacks are in blatant violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement” which was put in place after the Yom Kippur War, he charged.
The attack comes as Israel is in the midst of a fierce diplomatic battle to sink a deal that was finalized in July between Iran and the six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
Israel believes the deal would allow Iran to develop atomic weapons and embolden it to attack the Jewish state.
It sees Thursday’s attack as further proof of the danger that awaits Israel if the deal is executed.
“Those states who are rushing to embrace Iran should know that it was an Iranian commander that sponsored and guided the cell [in Syria] that fired on Israel,” Netanyahu said.
In Washington, Dina Badawy, a spokesperson for the State Department, told The Jerusalem Post, “We strongly condemn the rocket attacks against Israel and the Golan Heights from Syrian territory,” adding that, “We fully support Israel’s right to self-defense, and to ensure the safety of its people.”
Badawy called on all parties to not further jeopardize the long-held cease-fire in the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel.
The US had not yet determined the perpetrators of the attack, she said.
“We are closely monitoring the situation, and have been in close contact with the Israeli government since the attack occurred,” she said. “We are currently working to confirm details of the attack and who may have been responsible.”
The US Embassy in Israel issued an alert to American nationals in Israel warning against travel to the Golan and Israel’s North.
In New York, Ban said he condemned “all violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement” and similarly called for restraint.
Ban’s spokesman said the UN Disengagement Observer Force “immediately liaised with the Israel Defense Forces and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces to de-escalate the situation, which is currently quiet.”
Prosor called on the UN Security Council to condemn the attacks, to hold Syria responsible and to denounce Iran’s role in perpetuating terror in the region.
“Just as this attack is not business as usual, your response to it cannot be the usual call for both sides to show restraint. This deliberate and unprovoked attack is the act of one side, and one side only,” Prosor said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon late Thursday night warned that Thursday’s Iranian sponsored attack was just the “trailer” for the longer drama that will follow should the Iran deal become a reality.
“Once the deal is signed and the economic sanctions are lifted, what we say this evening will just be the trailer for what will happen once Iran is richer and more murderous.
It will provide a flow of funds and a large amount of weapons to terrorist groups so they can strike at Israel and against Westerns interests in the region. That is the intention of the bloody regime in Tehran. The Western world must not be allowed to sweep this fact under the carpet,” Ya’alon said.
The Iranian authorities, through the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon, headed by Kassam Suleimani, allows Iran to open yet another front on the Golan from which to attack Israel, Ya’alon said.
The Foreign Ministry in its message to the P5+1 countries said, “This attack has occurred before the ink on the JCPOA nuclear agreement has even dried, and provides “a clear indication of how Iran intends to continue to pursue its de-stabilizing actions and policies as the international sanctions regime is withdrawn in the near future,” Israel said.
“The international community led by the P5+1 cannot enable Iran to gain respectability and political legitimacy form the JCPOA while in parallel it continues to actively and directly perpetuate terrorism throughout the region,” Israel said.
The rockets launched from Syria with Iran’s support are “also a clear indication of how Iran will continue to undermine regional security, its commitments under the JCPOA and UNSCR 2231 that endorsed the plan of action,” Israel said.
In addition to Iran and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ya’alon fingered Syrian President Basher Assad, who he said was also responsible for the attack since the rockets were fired against Israel from territory he controls.
“We will not tolerate attempts to disrupt Israel’s sovereignty and impact the security of its citizens. We will respond with force to anyone who tries to challenge us,” Ya’alon said.
Dawoud Shehab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman in Gaza, denied the group had fired on Israel from the Syrian Golan.
“Israel is trying to divert attention from the defeat it suffered in the face of the determination of the hero prisoner, Muhammad Allan,” Shehab told Reuters.
Allan had refused food in protest at being detained without trial by Israel. On Wednesday, he called off the 65-day hunger strike after the High Court of Justice released him from administrative detention.
The possibility that Allan might die of his fast had drawn Islamic Jihad threats to attack Israel, which in turn deployed Iron Dome rocket interceptors outside Gaza as a precaution.
Islamic Jihad acknowledges receiving support from Iran.Reuters contributed to this report.