IAF hits anti-aircraft battery in Syria after missile explodes over Israel

Military says attack on air defense system and ‘additional targets’ are response to missile launch from Syria; makes no mention of alleged Israeli strikes in Homs

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

The nose of what appears to be an S-200 anti-aircraft missile, launched from Syria, after it exploded over Israel and landed in the southern city of Rahat, early July 1, 2023. (Courtesy)
The nose of what appears to be an S-200 anti-aircraft missile, launched from Syria, after it exploded over Israel and landed in the southern city of Rahat, early July 1, 2023. (Courtesy)

The Israeli military said fighter jets struck a Syrian air defense battery early Sunday in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from the system earlier in the night that exploded in Israeli airspace.

The launch from Syria earlier occurred as the Israeli Air Force allegedly carried out airstrikes near the city of Homs. Syria’s state news agency, SANA, said the IAF targeted a number of sites, causing unspecified “material losses.” SANA said Syrian air defenses responded to the “Israeli aggression.”

The Israel Defense Forces said early Sunday morning that the IAF jets attacked the anti-aircraft battery behind the launch and also hit “additional targets in the area.”

There was no immediate comment from Syrian authorities on the retaliatory strikes.

The IDF said that the anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria “exploded mid-air in Israeli airspace.” It did not acknowledge the earlier alleged Israeli strikes near Homs.

Shrapnel from the Syrian missile landed in the southern city of Rahat, causing slight damage to a building, but no injuries.

Police and IDF engineering specialists operated at the scene to remove the large pieces of shrapnel, officials said.

The IDF said there were no special instructions for civilians following the incident.

Residents of central and southern Israel reported hearing a large blast and shrapnel from what appeared to be parts of a surface-to-air missile from a Russian-made S-200 system landed in Rahat, footage showed.

The city is located some 230 kilometers (142 miles) from Israel’s border with Syria, and 415 kilometers (257 miles) from Homs.

The nose of the missile crashed into the side of a building, causing slight damage, and the tail landed in an open field near the city.

No sirens sounded in Israel after the Syrian missile entered Israeli airspace.

Though it is uncommon, Syrian surface-to-air missiles fired at Israeli fighter jets have in the past caused damage and triggered sirens in Israel as they entered Israeli airspace.

In February 2022, sirens sounded in northern Israel and some West Bank settlements after a Syrian air defense missile exploded over the area, raining down shrapnel. In two separate incidents in 2021, shrapnel from S-200 missiles landed in Tel Aviv and in the southern community of Ashalim.

In a similar case in 2019, a Syrian S-200 missile that was fired at an Israeli jet crashed in northern Cyprus, causing a large explosion and sparking a fire.

In 2018, an IAF F-16 fighter jet crashed in northern Israel after being hit by shrapnel from a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. Both pilots survived.

Israel has regularly accused the Syrian military of wildly firing large numbers of anti-aircraft missiles in response to its strikes.

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

An S-200 interceptor missile on display at the Ukrainian Air Force Museum. (George Chernilevsky/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Israeli military says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

The last reported Israeli strike in Syria occurred on June 14, when a Syrian soldier was seriously hurt after IAF jets struck a site near the capital Damascus.

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