IDF strikes Syria after six rockets fired toward Golan Heights

The head of the Golan Regional Council ordered shelters opened in towns in the southern Golan Heights.

IDF footage of strikes carried out in Syria overnight on April 9, 2023 (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The IDF conducted airstrikes in the Damascus area and fired artillery shells and conducted UAV strikes against rocket launchers in Syria early Sunday morning, after six rockets were fired in two waves toward the Golan Heights overnight.

The sites targeted by Israeli airstrikes in Syria included a military compound belonging to the Syrian Army's 4th Division, radar sites and artillery sites used by the Syrian Army.

Three rockets were fired toward the southern Golan Heights early Sunday morning, just hours after three rockets were launched at Israel from Syria late Saturday night, with one falling in an open area and one intercepted by the Iron Dome. The third rocket did not cross into Israeli territory.

In the rocket fire earlier on Saturday night, one of the rockets fell in an open area in the southern Golan Heights, while another fell in Jordanian territory.

After the rocket fire, the head of the Golan Regional Council ordered shelters opened in towns in the southern Golan and instructed residents to stay near shelters.

"The IDF considers the Syrian state responsible for everything that happens on its territory and will not allow attempts to violate Israel's sovereignty," said the IDF Spokesperson's Unit after the strikes.

Palestinians demonstrate at Al-Aqsa mosque as Palestinian Muslims attend Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 7, 2023 (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)Palestinians demonstrate at Al-Aqsa mosque as Palestinian Muslims attend Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 7, 2023 (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

The rocket fire came as the army beefed up its troops in the West Bank and sent soldiers to reinforce the police following a tense three days during which two terror attacks claimed three civilian lives and rockets were launched across the country’s southern and northern borders.

On Saturday night the focus shifted to Jerusalem’s Old City as security forces fear further unrest could break out on Sunday when Jewish worshipers are expected to flock to the Western Wall for the priestly blessings that take place on Passover.

Jewish visitors are also expected to ascend to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif. An additional 2,300 police troops have been deployed throughout the city.

“Israel is taking every measure to ensure that Muslims, Jews and Christians can celebrate Ramadan, Passover and Easter peacefully,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Rockets on two fronts

On Thursday night and early Friday morning, Israel appeared to be on the edge of a two-front war with Hamas in Gaza on its southern border and possibly Hezbollah on the Lebanese border, even though the Lebanon rockets were by Hamas operatives there.

By Saturday night, it appeared as if an uneasy calm had been restored, with security forces still braced not just for violence on along those borders as well as increased Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant briefed US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on the security situation on Saturday night, detailing efforts to “thwart terrorism and respond effectively to any threat toward Israeli citizens and troops,” his office said.

“Minister Gallant also raised the defense establishment’s efforts to enable freedom of prayer at the Temple Mount, which is hijacked by groups of extreme rioters,” his office added

President Isaac Herzog said Israel was “firmly committed to preserving the status quo at the holy sites in general and on the Temple Mount in particular” in a telephone conversation he had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Netanyahu has in the past week said that Iran is behind much of the violence leveled at Israel, a point Herzog underscored in his conversation with Erdogan.

“Iran, by means of its proxies, including Hamas, is leading a campaign on several fronts with the aim of undermining regional stability and is using terrorism based on religious incitement, focusing on the situation in Jerusalem,” Herzog said.

He also explained to Erdogan that fake reports against Israel in the Arabic-language media have fueled incitement and helped encourage terrorism, Herzog’s office said.

Gallant on Saturday night sent reinforcements to the West Bank, including the seam line areas, as well as to the Jordan Valley where a terror attack on Friday had claimed the lives of two Israeli-British sisters, Rina and Maia Dee from Efrat.

A second terror attack, in Tel Aviv, on Friday claimed the life of an Italian tourist, Alessandro Parini, 35, who had arrived that morning for the Easter holiday.

Gallant extended the closure the army had imposed on the West Bank as well as the crossings along the Gaza border until the end of Passover on Wednesday.

He also canceled “civilian measures that were approved ahead of Ramadan, and the entrance of workers to Israel,” his office said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed police “to mobilize all reserve border police units and has directed the IDF to mobilize additional forces to confront the terror attacks,” his office said.

The IDF call-up focused in particular on air defense and offensive air force formations.

Overnight Thursday and into Friday morning, Israel executed a number of retaliatory attacks against Hamas positions in Gaza and Lebanon but did not target any Hezbollah positions.

It did so after the security cabinet met late Thursday night and early Friday morning. Netanyahu said at the end of the meeting that, “Israel’s response, tonight and in the future, will exact a heavy price.”

But Israel’s response was measured, even though experts spoke of a Hezbollah connection.

“It’s not Hezbollah shooting, but it’s hard to believe that Hezbollah didn’t know about it,” Tamir Hayman, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said on Twitter.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati issued a statement condemning any military operations from its territory that threatened stability but there was no immediate comment from Hezbollah. Earlier on Thursday, before the rockets were fired, senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said any infringement on al-Aqsa “will inflame the entire region.”

UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander, Maj.-Gen. Aroldo Lázaro said he spoke Friday with authorities in Israel and Lebanon.

“Our liaison and coordination mechanisms are fully engaged. Both sides have said they do not want a war.

“The actions over the past day are dangerous and risk a serious escalation,” he said.

The United States on Thursday defended Israel’s right to self-defense. On Friday, Vedant Patel, US State Department principal deputy spokesperson, strongly condemned the recent terror attacks in Tel Aviv and the Jordan Valley.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones, and wish a full recovery to the injured,” said Patel.

The “horrific attacks today, in which three were killed and at least eight others wounded, affected citizens of Israel, Italy and the United Kingdom,” he noted.

He went on to say that “the targeting of innocent civilians of any nationality is unconscionable.”

“The United States stands with the government and people of Israel,” Patel continued. “We are in close contact with our Israeli partners and reaffirm our enduring commitment to their security.”

Omri Nahmias in Washington and Reuters contributed to this report.