Blasts heard in northern Israel as Iron Dome fires at false threat

Military says preliminary information indicates interceptor missiles were launched in error, with country on edge before Passover and after rockets fired from Gaza

File: Israeli soldiers patrol on the border between Lebanon and Israel in northern Israel, March 15, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
File: Israeli soldiers patrol on the border between Lebanon and Israel in northern Israel, March 15, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Blasts were heard in northern Israel Wednesday afternoon, startling residents, after Iron Dome interceptor missiles were launched into the sky due to the false identification of a threat.

An Iron Dome battery fired two interceptor missiles due to a false alarm and there were no fears of any security threats, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The country was on edge hours before the start of the Passover holiday, after a night of clashes at the Temple Mount and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, Syria’s foreign ministry warned that Israel risked dragging the region toward “total escalation” after another overnight airstrike near Damascus attributed to the Jewish state.

“Syria warns Israel and its sponsors once again of the dangers of these aggressive policies, which push the region towards total escalation and a new phase of insecurity and instability,” it said in a statement.

The ministry accused Israel of striking Syria in order to “escape its internal problems through aggressions and crimes outside its borders.”

Israel’s security establishment and officials have issued several warnings that the government’s contentious efforts to weaken the judiciary have worsened the nation’s strategic position, highlighting the danger of enemies identifying the internal divisions caused by the overhaul as weakness.

In a message to Israel’s adversaries during a Tuesday pre-Passover toast at the Defense Ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “no [internal] dispute will prevent us from” protecting ourselves from attacks.

A fourth airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel within the span of a week was carried out early Tuesday morning, reportedly killing two Syrian civilians.

Israel appears to have stepped up its activity in its northern neighbor in recent weeks, targeting Iranian and Hezbollah activity in the nation.

Flares of Syrian air defense rockets are seen in the sky of Damascus on April 4, 2023. (Stringer/AFP)

In a strike last Friday, two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed. Thousands of Iranians attended their funeral processions in Tehran on Tuesday.

As a general rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but it has acknowledged conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country over the last decade.

The IDF says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Iran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, claims it only deploys military advisers in the conflict-ravaged country.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, accused Israel of bringing “war and insecurity” to the Middle East and of “creating discord in the region.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani holds a press conference in Tehran on July 13, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Tuesday morning’s strike came a day after the Israeli Air Force said a drone downed in Israeli airspace was suspected to be Iranian.

Some Israeli media outlets cited unattributed assessments on Monday that the string of airstrikes in Syria could be linked to last month’s suspected Hezbollah terror bombing near Megiddo in northern Israel, which Jerusalem believes was carried out by a terrorist who crossed the Lebanon border fence using a ladder. One man was seriously wounded in the attack.

While many details of the investigation into the Megiddo bombing are barred from publication, the Haaretz news site cited speculation that the series of airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria could indicate that the IRGC was involved in the latest security incidents.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to strike back at those who attack Israel during a Wednesday visit to an Iron Dome battery in southern Israel.

“We’ll hit everyone who tries to harm us and exact from them a heavy price that will make them regret every action taken against the citizens of Israel and IDF soldiers,” Gallant said.

Emanuel Fabian and agencies contributed to this report.

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