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Live updates: Situation escalates in Middle East, Iran and Israel exchange dozens of rockets overnight

Iranian forces based in Syria reportedly fired 20 rockets at Israeli front-line military positions in the Golan Heights, triggering an Israeli reprisal and escalating already heightened tensions in what appeared to be the most serious violence in years.

Edited by: India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Updated: May 10, 2018 12:00 IST ]
Syrian state-run media said Israel struck a military
Image Source : SANA VIA AP

Syrian state-run media said Israel struck a military outpost near the capital Damascus on Tuesday, saying its air defenses intercepted and destroyed two of the incoming missiles. The reported attack came shortly after US President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, calling Tehran the main exporter of terrorism in the region. 

A day after United States President Donald Trump announced the decision to quit landmark nuclear deal with Iran, the tension in the Middle East has escalated. The decision, taken after Israeli government released alleged proof of Iran's malicious nuclear intentions, seems to have irked the Islamic nation. 

On Thursday morning, Iranian forces based in Syria reportedly fired 20 rockets at Israeli front-line military positions in the Golan Heights, triggering an Israeli reprisal and escalating already heightened tensions in what appeared to be the most serious violence in years.

The Israeli military said its Iron Dome rocket defence system intercepted some of the incoming projectiles, while others caused only minimal damage. There were no Israeli casualties.

Also read | US set to reimpose sanctions on Iran after Trump junks nuclear deal

Here are the LIVE Updates:

11:58 am: Dozens of rockets fired from Syria on Golan Heights overnight (AFP)

10:14 am: Israel says it has hit dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria, including the origin of a rocket attack on the Israeli army in the Golan Heights: AFP news agency

09:45 am: Iranian General Qasem Soleimani commanded rocket strike on its Golan bases - Israeli military (Reuters)

07:40 am: Israel missile strikes aimed at Syria military bases and an arms depot: Syrian state media via AFP

07:00 am: Israeli missiles have destroyed a radar, says Syrian state media

06:00 am: Syria's official news agency says anti-aircraft defences in Damascus have intercepted Israeli missiles and 'shot down one after the other'

05:50 am: Iranian forces in Syria have fired about 20 rockets and missiles at Israeli army positions in the Golan Heights, IDF says

05:45 am: Explosions heard in Damascus, planes overhead: AFP

05:10 am: Syria anti-aircraft defences intercept Israeli missiles, according to state media

05:00 am: Last night, the Saudi foreign minister said, "If Iran acquires nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same"

04:06 am: Iranian rocket fire on Israeli positions in Golan, no victims, the Israeli army says

Also read | US exit from 'defective' Iran nuclear deal: Why Trump opted out? Who will it hurt? What's next for Iran, EU nations? Here's all you need to know

Syria’s capital of Damascus shook with sounds of explosions just before dawn, and firing by Syrian air defences over the city was heard throughout the night. An Israeli official said Israel was targeting Iranian positions inside Syria. Syria’s state news agency SANA quoted a Syrian military official as saying Israeli missiles hit air defence positions, radar stations and a weapons warehouse, but claiming most incoming rockets were intercepted.

Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said earlier that Iran’s Al Quds force fired the rockets at several Israeli bases, though he would not say how Israel determined the Iranian involvement. The incoming attack set off air raid sirens in the Israeli-controlled Golan, which was captured from Syria in the 1967 war.

Israel “views this Iranian attack very severely,” Conricus told reporters. He said Israel had responded but did not provide details.

“This event is not over,” he said.

Syria’s state media said Syrian air defences had intercepted “hostile Israeli missiles” early Thursday that was fired over southwestern Damascus. Hours later, state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast a live feed of Syrian air defences firing into the sky above the capital, and loud explosions and air defence firing were heard through the night.

Syrian activists reported Israeli airstrikes hitting targets near Damascus. One video posted online showed a large explosion and shrapnel flying in the air. Residents reported loud sounds that rocked their buildings. It was not immediately clear what was hit.

An Israeli army spokesman, Avichay Adraee, said on Twitter that Israel was “acting against Iranian targets inside Syria,” a rare admission by an Israeli official.

Al-Ikhbariya TV said Israel also targeted military posts in southern Suweida province, including an air base, and struck near Homs in central Syria. The state TV station said the attacks were foiled.

Syrian media earlier said the hostilities began with Israeli fire at Syrian positions in southern Syria from across the border. Pro-Syrian media said Syrian missiles then fired at Israeli forces. One TV station, Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen, said at least 50 missiles were fired from Syria at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. Al-Ikhbariya TV said missiles targeted 10 Israeli positions.

Syrian media said it was the first time in years that Syrians had fired at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.

Israel has been on heightened alert in recent days, anticipating an Iranian attack following Iranian vows to retaliate to what it says are recent Israeli strikes in Syria targeting Iranian outposts.

Late Tuesday, Syrian state media said Israel struck a military outpost near the capital of Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted depots and rocket launchers that likely belonged to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, killing at least 15 people, eight of them Iranians.

Last month, an attack on Syria’s T4 air base in Homs province killed seven Iranian military personnel. On April 30, Israel was said to have struck government outposts in northern Syria, killing more than a dozen pro-government fighters, many of the Iranians.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied most of the airstrikes. But for months, it has repeatedly said it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria.

In February, Israel shot down what it said was an armed Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace. Israel responded by attacking anti-aircraft positions in Syria, but an Israeli warplane was shot down during the battle.

Iranian forces moved into Syria after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011 to back the forces of President Bashar Assad. As that war winds down, and Assad appears to be headed toward victory, Israel fears that Iran, along with tens of thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen, will carry out attacks against Israel. President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday that the US was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran has triggered uncertainty and threatened to spark more unrest in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and discuss military coordination in Syria.

India Tv - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

Image Source : AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

Russia has also sent forces to Syria to back Assad. But Israel and Russia have maintained close communications to prevent their air forces from coming into conflict.

Together with Putin, Netanyahu toured a parade celebrating the anniversary of the World War II victory over the Nazis and then met the Russian president at the Kremlin for consultations.

After 10 hours together, Netanyahu said he conveyed Israel’s obligation to defend itself against Iranian aggression.

“I think that matters were presented in a direct and forthright manner, and this is important. These matters are very important to Israel’s security at all times and especially at this time,” he said.

Israel views Iran as its archenemy, citing Iran’s calls for Israel’s destruction, support for militant groups across the region and growing military activity in neighbouring Syria. Israel has warned that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

Israel’s military went on high alert Tuesday and bomb shelters were ordered open in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights following reports of “irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria.” After an uneventful night, the military on Wednesday called on residents to return to “full civilian routine,” meaning studies and excursions would continue as usual, although the shelters would remain open.

Amos Gilead, a retired senior Israeli defence official, told a security conference in the coastal town of Herzliya that Iran’s intentions in Syria meant a wider conflagration may only be a matter of time.

“They want to build a second Hezbollah-stan,” he said, referring to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group that last fought a war with Israel in 2006. “They are determined to do it and we are determined to prevent it. It means we are on a collision course.”

(With inputs from AP)

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