Following attack on Syria, Israel deploys Iron Dome missile defenses in the north
Apparently bracing for possible retaliation, Israel deployed two Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the north of the country on Sunday morning, hours after it reportedly struck a shipment of Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah near Damascus.
The Iron Dome can shoot down medium and long-range missiles and rockets. It has been used with a great degree of success to protect cities in southern and central Israel from Hamas rocket attacks.
The move comes as Israel faces growing tension with its northern neighbors, Syria and Lebanon, over alleged airstrikes. IAF planes reportedly flew over Lebanese airspace to hit targets in Syria.
Today, Lebanon's National News Agency stated, "Israeli occupation army raised the degree of mobilization of its troops along the Lebanese southern border, in the wake of the raid by Israeli warplanes at dawn on targets inside Syria, a thing which was met by increased security measures by the Lebanese army and UNIFIL, in anticipation of any military developments."
At the inauguration of a new interchange at the northern end of the Begin Highway in Jerusalem today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment on the situation in Syria. At the ceremony of the interchange, named for his late father, Netanyahu said, "He taught me about the enormous responsibility that we have to ensure the security of the State of Israel and build up its future. This heritage needs to unite us all every day and so it does."
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the Israeli airstrikes are a "declaration of war" by Israel and that Syria would retaliate in its own time and way.
He said the attack proved that there is an alliance between Israel and Islamists trying to topple the Syrian government.
Iran condemned an Israeli attack on Syria and urged countries in the region to stand against the action, the Fars news agency reported on Sunday.
Israel carried out its second air strike in days on Syria early on Sunday, a Western intelligence source said, in an attack that shook Damascus with a series of powerful blasts and drove columns of fire into the night sky.
Israel declined to comment, but Syria accused the Jewish state of carrying out a raid on a military facility just north of the capital.
The Fars news agency paraphrased Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying Iran condemned Israel's strike on Syria and said it was part of an effort by Israel to create instability and insecurity in the region. He urged countries in the region to stand against the "assault," Fars reported.
The blasts occurred a day after an Israeli official said his country had carried out an air strike targeting a consignment of missiles in Syria. The research centre hit on Sunday was also targeted by Israel in January.
"The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army," Syrian television said, referring to recent offensives by President Bashar Al-Assad's forces against rebels.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted eyewitnesses in the area as saying they saw planes in the sky at the time of the explosions. It said the blasts hit the Jamraya military centre and a nearby ammunition depot.
There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials on Sunday's explosions. "We don't respond to this kind of report," an Israeli military spokeswoman told Reuters.
A senior US official confirmed to NBC News that Israeli Air Force bombed the military research center.
The overnight Israeli strike reportedly targeted Iranian-supplied missiles to Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, a Western intelligence source told Reuters. "In last night's attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah," the source said.
Massive explosions have been heard near Mount Qasioun in Damascus. The area hosts the Jamraya military research center, which came under Israeli attack earlier in January and marked the first incursion by Israel into Syrian airspace in six years.
There have also been reports that the airstrikes targeted the 104th and 105th brigades of the Syrian Republican Guards, Russia Today reports.
US President Barack Obama said that he will let the ''Israeli government confirm or deny whatever strikes they have taken."
Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by activists showed a huge ball of fire rising into the night sky on the edge of the Syrian capital.
The Israeli Air Force conducted an airstrike on Syrian territory on
Among the varying descriptions of the actual rockets, Fateh 110s have come up, which are advanced enough to strike Tel Aviv from southern Lebanon and, therefore perceived as a threat by Israel.
The Israeli military refused to confirm or deny reports that it had attacked Syria early Sunday.
"We don't comment on those reports," an Israel Defence Forces spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said.
Israel Radio quoted Syrian opposition sources as saying that eight consecutive explosions were heard within half an hour.
Syrian state television reported a rocket attack on a Damascus research centre.
Voice of Russia, Arutz Sheva, The Times of Israel, Globes, Reuters, RT, dpa