Amid Iranian missile barrage, US says Israel has right to defend itself

A State Department official says Trump administration stands ‘with Israel in the fight against Iran’s malign activities’

WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday defended Israel’s right to take military action to protect its civilians after roughly 20 projectiles were fired at Israel from Syria in a raid attributed to Iranian forces.

“We are aware of reports that approximately 20 projectiles were launched into Israel,” a State Department official told The Times of Israel. “We stand with Israel in the fight against Iran’s malign activities and we strongly support Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.”

A National Security Council official, who spoke on background, also said the Trump administration backed Israel’s prerogative to protect its citizens.

Just after midnight in Israel on Thursday, some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces in southern Syria, with some of the incoming missiles being intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the Israel Defense Forces said, amid sky high tensions on the northern border.

There were no reports of Israeli casualties in the attack, and an army spokesperson said that “limited” damage was caused to Israeli military bases.

The Israeli army said the missile barrage was carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Forces. The incursion appeared to be the first time that Israel attributed such an attack directly to Iran, which generally operates through proxies.

The late night rocket barrage was also the largest attack, in terms of the number of rockets fired, in the seven years of the Syrian civil war.

Syria’s state news agency said early Thursday that Syrian air defenses intercepted “hostile Israeli missiles.” Syrian media later said the missiles were fired over southwestern Damascus.

The pro-Syrian government Al-Mayadeen TV claimed more than 50 missiles had been fired from Syria toward Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.

The attack came a day after the Israeli military called on local governments on the Golan Heights to open bomb shelters, in light of “abnormal” activities by Iranian forces in Syria. The barrage also followed US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Tuesday night that he was pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed that the army had already retaliated to the alleged Iranian attack, but would not comment on the specific details.

“The IDF sees this Iranian attack on Israel with severity,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. “This event is not over.”

Judah Ari Gross, agencies contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: