Despite overnight rocket volley, schools open on Golan Heights

Local residents were sent running to bomb shelters after midnight, as some 20 projectiles, believed fired by Iranian forces, targeted Israel from Syria

A man seen at the entrance to a bomb shelter that was open tonight in the Golan Heights, in northern Israel, May 8, 2018, (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
A man seen at the entrance to a bomb shelter that was open tonight in the Golan Heights, in northern Israel, May 8, 2018, (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Israeli schools in the Golan Heights opened normally on Thursday and no restrictions were being imposed on farmers in northern Israel, after the largest ever direct clash between Jerusalem and Tehran overnight Wednesday-Thursday saw residents of the plateau spend several hours huddled in bomb shelters.

Israeli authorities were projecting an air of business-as-usual after some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces from southern Syria just after midnight on Thursday, prompting Israeli jets to target numerous Iranian-controlled sites across Syria, according to the army.

Some restrictions, however, were introduced to limit large gatherings in the Golan Heights.

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

Sirens blared across the Golan Heights throughout the exchange, sending residents into bomb shelters. The IDF Home Front Command called on residents to adhere to security instructions as needed. Residents of the Golan Heights were told they could leave the bomb shelters around 2 a.m., but were instructed to remain near the fortified areas until further notice.

Some of the incoming missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army said. There were no reports of Israeli casualties in the attack. An IDF spokesperson said damage was caused to Israeli military bases, but that it was “limited.”

In response, Israel launched an extensive retaliatory campaign, striking suspected Iranian bases throughout Syria for hours following the initial Iranian bombardment, an Israeli military spokesperson confirmed.

The late-night Iranian rocket barrage and Israeli counterattack appeared to be the largest exchange in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In light of the aerial battles, numerous cities — including Kiryat Shmona and Tiberias — and towns in northern Israel decided to open their public bomb shelters, though the army did not require all of them to do so. In one case, residents of the northern Israeli town of Metula, along the Lebanese border, were instructed to take shelter after a loud explosion was heard in the area. They were later cleared to leave as no signs of impact were found.

Shortly before 3 a.m., a loud blast was also heard in the northern city of Safed, prompting its mayor to release a statement to residents reassuring them that the explosion was “not a missile strike or anything else, but rather an IDF launch from our area.”

Residents of central Israel reported hearing fighter jets flying overhead.

Tehran has repeatedly vowed revenge after the T-4 army base in Syria was struck in an air raid — widely attributed to Israel — on April 9, killing at least seven members of the IRGC, including a senior officer responsible for the group’s drone program. (Iran used the T-4 base to launch an attack drone carrying explosives into Israel in February; the drone was shot down.)

It apparently attempted to exact that revenge at 12:10 a.m. on Thursday, with its bombardment on Israeli military bases on the Golan Heights.

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