Unprecedented clashes between Israel and Iran over Syria have sparked calls for restraint from world leaders worried about the risk of all-out war, even as both sides say they want to avoid a regional conflict.
All eyes will be on any fresh military activity Friday after Israel carried out widespread deadly raids against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria on Thursday in response to rocket fire towards its forces that it blamed on Iran.
The reported exchange of fire came after weeks of rising tensions and followed US President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to withdraw from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a move Israel had long sought.
The bombardment led to calls for calm from Russia, France, Germany and Britain and the European Union, while the United States put the blame squarely on Iran and stressed Israel’s right to “self-defence”.
Germany and Britain joined the United States in denouncing the rocket fire towards the Israel-occupied Golan Heights they also said was carried out by Iran, while France reiterated its “unwavering support for Israel’s security”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had “crossed a red line” and that the resulting bombardment against targets in Syria “was a consequence”.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call that he did not want “new tensions” in the Middle East.
Rouhani did not mention Israel’s strikes in Syria, or those against the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
But the chairman of his country’s parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Allaeddine Boroujerdi, condemned the strikes, warning that “Israel has entered a dangerous game”.
The Israeli raids in Syria, which a monitor said killed 23 fighters, were one of its largest military operations in recent years and the biggest such assault on Iranian targets, the Israeli military said.
“We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. “I hope we’ve finished this episode and everyone understood.”
Israel carried out the raids after it said 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the Golan Heights at around midnight.
It blamed Iran’s Quds force, adding that Israel’s anti-missile system intercepted four while the rest did not land in its territory. There were no Israeli casualties.
If confirmed, it would be the first time Iran has sought to directly attack Israeli-controlled territory aside from an alleged attempted drone assault in February.