Israeli-made smart bombs were reportedly used by India in an airstrike on Pakistani jihadists across the volatile Kashmir border early Tuesday, in an attack that raised tensions between the two nuclear arch-rivals.
Indian Air Force planes bombed a militant camp inside Pakistani territory early Tuesday in retaliation for a suicide bombing in India-controlled Kashmir on February 14 that killed 40 Indian soldiers.
An Indian foreign ministry official claimed the strike in the town of Balakot killed “a very large number” of fighters of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants India alleged were preparing more suicide attacks on India.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan rejected India’s claim, branding it “self serving, reckless and fictitious.”
Pakistan officials said that Indian warplanes did breach its airspace and drop a payload over Balakot in the country’s northwest, but said there was no damage or casualties.
The munitions used in the rare strike against targets deep inside Pakistan were Israeli-made SPICE 2000 smart bombs, the Indian news website The Week reported.
India’s ties with Israel have warmed in recent years, particularly in the area of military cooperation and weapons development, exchanging billions of dollars in defense contracts.
The SPICE — standing for Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective — was developed by the government-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
The approximately 1,000 kilogram (2,200 pound) air-to-ground missiles were launched by Indian Mirage fighter jets.
The powerful missile can be fired up to 100 kilometers away from the target. It uses GPS coordinates to locate a target and on-board cameras to ensure that the munition is striking the correct location.
“SPICE is combat-proven and in service with the Israeli Air Force and several international customers,” Rafael says in the product description on its website.
The same smart bombs have been used by the Israel Air Force in strikes against targets in Syria.
The EU called on New Delhi and Islamabad to exercise “maximum restraint” amid the soaring tension between the nuclear-armed powers who both lay claim to the Kashmir region.
“We remain in contact with both countries and what we believe is essential is that all exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.
India and Pakistan have fought four wars over the contested lands since gaining their independence in 1947. Balakot is in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, a few kilometers outside of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Hours after the bombing, India’s air force shot down a drone near the Pakistani frontier.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi called the violation an “uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”
The purported attack was India’s first use of air strikes against Pakistan since 1971, when the two went to war over Bangladesh’s independence.
AP and AFP contributed to this story