Politico

Israel says it struck targets in Syria after missile attack


JERUSALEM — A missile launched from Syria struck southern Israel early Thursday, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, the Israeli military said. In response, it said it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.

The incident, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, pointed to likely Iranian involvement. Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria, has accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including sabatoge at its Natanz nuclear facility on April 11, and vowed revenge. It also threatened to complicate U.S.-led attempts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.

The Israeli army said the missile landed in the Negev region and the air raid sirens were sounded in a village near Dimona, where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, and explosions were reported across Israel. The army later said the incoming missile had caused no damage.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility or comment from Iran. But on Saturday, Iran’s hard-line Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei suggesting Israel’s Dimona facility be targeted after the attack on Natanz. Zarei cited the idea of “an eye for an eye” in his remarks.

Action should be taken “against the nuclear facility in Dimona,” he wrote. “This is because no other action is at the same level as the Natanz incident.”

The Dimona reactor is widely believed to be the centerpiece of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Israel neither confirms nor denies that it has a vast nuclear arsenal.

While Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.

Zarei has demanded retaliatory strikes on Israel in the past. In November, he suggested Iran strike the Israeli port city of Haifa over Israel’s suspected involvement in the killing of a scientist who founded Iran’s military nuclear program decades earlier. However, Iran did not retaliate then.

Israel and Iran are arch-enemies. Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and has opposed U.S.-led efforts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran. With Israel’s encouragement, then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.

Iran recently began enriching a small amount of uranium up to 60% purity, the highest level ever for its program that edges even closer to weapons-grade levels. However, Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Israel has twice bombed other Mideast nations to target their nuclear programs.

All the incidents come as Iran negotiates in Vienna with world powers over the U.S. potentially re-entering its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Negotiators there have described the talks as constructive so far, though they acknowledge the Natanz sabotage could strain the talks.

Israel’s government says the deal will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. It also says it does not address Iran’s long-range missile program and its support for hostile proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and has called for more scrutiny of Israel’s nuclear facility in Dimona.

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