After Gaza strikes, Israel threatens Iranian forces in Syria

Source: After Gaza strikes, Israel threatens Iranian forces in Syria

IDF threatens to expand its air campaign to Syria after accusing Iranian forces in Damascus of orchestrating the rocket attacks; IDF spokesman: ‘We have seen and established a clear link between Gaza and Damascus, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force is involved. Our response is not limited geographically.’
Associated Press |Published:  10.27.18 , 15:04
The IDF on Saturday struck dozens of targets across the Gaza Strip in response to heavy rocket fire and threatened to expand its air campaign to Syria after accusing Iranian forces in Damascus of orchestrating the rocket attacks.

The threats toward Iranian forces in Syria added a new dimension to what was already the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza militants in several weeks. Opening a new front in Syria could put Israel in open confrontation with heavily armed Iranian and Hezbollah forces, along with recently deployed Russian anti-aircraft systems.

Syrian President Assad and Iranian President Rouhani (Photos: AP, EPA)
Syrian President Assad and Iranian President Rouhani (Photos: AP, EPA)

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters that 34 rockets had been fired at Israel throughout the night. Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system intercepted 13 rockets, two landed in Gaza and the remainder fell in open spaces in southern Israel, he said. In response, Israel hit over 80 targets in Gaza.

Conricus said Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group, had fired the rockets under instructions from Iran’s “Al Quds” force based in Syria and said that Israel was considering taking action against the Iranians in response.

“We have seen and established a clear link between Gaza and Damascus,” he said. “We know that the orders incentives were given from Damascus with the clear involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force. From our perspective, part of the address by which we will deal with this fire is also in Damascus and the Quds Force. Our response is not limited geographically,” he added.

Later, Islamic Jihad agreed to stop firing its rockets toward Israel in an agreement brokered by Egypt. Israel did not immediately respond, however, and past cease-fires in the conflict have not always stuck.

Iron Dome intercepts rocket

Iron Dome intercepts rocket

Iran has sent its forces, along with those of Hezbollah and other Shiite militias, to Syria to back President Bashar Assad in the civil war there. As the war winds down, Israel has repeatedly warned that it will not allow its archenemy Iran to establish a permanent military presence in postwar Syria.

Throughout the seven-year war, the IDF carried out scores of airstrikes in Syria, mostly against suspected Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah but also against the Iranians themselves.

But Israel’s mission could become much more complicated following Russia’s decision to transfer sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

Russia deployed the missiles after a Russian warplane was shot down over Syrian skies last month. Russia has blamed Israel for the mishap, saying that Syria accidentally shot down the plane while reacting to an Israeli air raid. Israel and Russia have maintained a hotline to prevent their air forces from coming into contact with one another over Syrian skies. According to media reports, Russia has become less cooperative since the downing of the plane.

Putin (L) and Assad's meeting at Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria's Latakia Province (Photo: AP, Presidential TV)

Putin (L) and Assad’s meeting at Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia Province (Photo: AP, Presidential TV)
The fighting in Gaza followed a bloody day of border protests Friday.16,000 demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails, hand grenades, burnt tires and stones at the security forces, and four Palestinians were killed by IDF during the protest along the perimeter fence.The sudden burst of fighting complicated the mission of Egyptian mediators who have been trying to prevent a full-blown conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Conricus said that Israel had struck over 80 sites across Gaza, including training camps, weapons storage facilities and a Hamas security headquarters building.

COGAT, an Israeli defense body that handles Palestinian civilian issues, said one of the rockets had hit an ambulance crossing used to transfer Gazans out of the strip in emergency humanitarian cases. “To what low have the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip reached?” wrote the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, in his Facebook page.

 (Photo: AP)

(Photo: AP)

Although Islamic Jihad often acts independently of Hamas, officials hold Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, responsible for all fire emanating from the territory.Conricus said there had been no signs of Hamas trying to rein in Islamic Jihad. He also criticized Hamas for escalating the border protests after Israel had tried to defuse tensions by allowing special fuel shipments into Gaza to improve the supply of electricity. The territory suffers from chronic power outages.

Gaza border riot (Photo: AP)

Gaza border riot (Photo: AP)

After they fired the heaviest rocket salvoes across the border since August, a spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the armed groups that operates in Gaza, said understandings had been reached for a ceasefire with Israel with the help of Egyptian mediation.”After contacts between the Islamic Jihad leadership and the brothers in Egypt it was agreed that a comprehensive ceasefire will begin immediately,” spokesman Daoud Shehab said. “The Islamic Jihad will abide by the ceasefire if the occupation (Israel) does the same.”

Earlier the organization said that “If the aggression and bombing continued, we will respond to each incident,” and even threatened to “expand the range” of rocket fire.

There were no reports of injuries on either side.

Palestinian  President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: EPA)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: EPA)
On Wednesday, Egyptian intelligence officials met representatives of Palestinian factions in Gaza, the latest in a round of shuttle diplomacy between the sides.Egypt wants to restore calm in order to pursue the broader goal of Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-based administration of President Mahmoud Abbas.


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