Russia and France on Thursday called for a calming of tensions after Israel struck dozens of Iranian-affiliated targets in Syria following a missile attack on the Golan Heights overnight Wednesday.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov appealed for a lowering of tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran, the Tass Russian news agency reported, and said Moscow was “concerned” by the situation.
“We have established contacts with all parties and we call for restraint from all parties,” he said. “It’s very worrying and a source of concern. We have to work to ease the tension.”
The Israeli army said Thursday morning that it had set back Iranian military capabilities in Syria by “many months” with its strikes on Iranian positions.
The Israel Defense Forces stressed that it was not seeking an escalation of hostilities with Tehran, after some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces from southern Syria just after midnight, prompting the extensive Israeli retaliatory raids.
The Russian defense ministry claimed that Syria’s air defenses had managed to shoot down more than half of the missiles fired by Israel. It said that the Israeli strikes were conducted by 28 fighter jets.
IDF spokesman Jonathan Cornicus confirmed Thursday that Israel had given Russia prior notice of its intentions to attack Syria via a de-conflicting mechanism between the two countries that has been in place since 2015.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
“I told President Putin that it is our right and indeed our duty to take any steps required to safeguard our security interests,” the prime minister told reporters in a telephone briefing from Moscow airport, minutes before taking off en route back to Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu said he had no reason to believe the Kremlin would try to limit Israel’s freedom of operation in the region, an apparent reference to several alleged Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria before last night’s operation.
Germany ‘strongly condemns’ Iran
Also on Thursday, Germany condemned the attack the night before on Israel’s Golan Heights, stressing the Jewish state’s right to defend itself. At the same time, Berlin said it was important not to let the situation escalate.
“We note reports of Iranian rocket attacks on Israeli military bases with great concern,” a spokesperson for Germany’s Foreign Ministry said. “These attacks are a serious provocation that we strongly condemn. As we have always emphasized, Israel has a right to self-defense.
“At the same time, it is crucial that there is no further escalation,” the spokesperson said. “In particular, this means that we must do everything we can to finally achieve a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict — to end the suffering of the Syrian people, but also so as not to jeopardize stability in the entire region.“
French President Emmanuel Macron called “for a deescalation,” the presidency in Paris said in a statement Thursday, adding that Macron would discuss the issue with Angela Merkel when he met with the German chancellor in Aachen, western Germany, later in the day.
On Wednesday night, the US defended Israel’s right to take military action to protect its civilians.
“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.”
Israel occupied part of the Golan Heights after the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the territory in 1981 in a move not recognized by the international community.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday morning that the IDF had destroyed “nearly all” of Iran’s military infrastructure sites in Syria overnight in response to a rocket barrage on Israel’s north, warning Tehran that attacks on Israeli territory will be met with “the strongest possible force.”
In his first public comments following the strikes on dozens of targets that the IDF said were affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards’ al-Quds Force, Liberman said that Israel has no interest in escalating tensions but will not accept any provocation against it.
“If we get rain, you will get a flood,” he warned Iran, speaking at the annual Herzliya Conference. “We will not let Iran use Syria as a base to attack us from.”
Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.