Missile from Syria targets Israeli site near Dimona, Israel retaliates

Sirens sounded near Dimona nuclear site. Israel has never disclosed its atomic arsenal, but foreign experts say the Jewish state has between 100 to 300 nuclear warheads.
Thursday 22/04/2021
Israeli soldiers search for debris after a missile launched from Syria landed near the Dimona nuclear site in Israel’s southern Negev desert, on April 22, 2021. (AFP)
Israeli soldiers search for debris after a missile launched from Syria landed near the Dimona nuclear site in Israel’s southern Negev desert, on April 22, 2021. (AFP)

JERUSALEM/ LONDON – Multiple defence batteries in Syria were struck by Israeli forces, the military said Thursday, after a missile targeted a village near the secretive nuclear reactor of Dimona in southern Israel.

“A surface-to-air missile was fired from Syria to Israel’s southern Negev,” the Israel Defence Forces tweeted.

“In response, we struck the battery from which the missile was launched and additional surface-to-air batteries in Syria.”

Syrian state news agency SANA said the Israeli fire came from the Golan Heights and was targeted “towards positions in the vicinity of Damascus” in the early hours of Thursday.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Israeli missiles hit the air defence base of the Syrian government in the town of Dmeir — roughly 40 kilometres northeast of Damascus.

The strikes destroyed air defence batteries, the Observatory said, with some casualties.

The Dmeir area is believed to be home to weapons depots belonging to militias loyal to Iran, it added.

SANA said Syrian air defence batteries successfully intercepted most of the missiles.

Quoting a military source, the news outlet said four soldiers were wounded and there were “some material losses”.

– Undisclosed arsenal –

While there were no immediate reports of any Israeli wounded or physical damage, sirens sounded near Abu Qrenat village, in the vicinity of the Dimona nuclear site.

Israel has never disclosed its atomic arsenal, but foreign experts say the Jewish state has between 100 to 300 nuclear warheads.

Israeli media have said for weeks that air defences around the Dimona reactor and the Red Sea port Eilat were being beefed up in anticipation of a possible long-range missile or drone attack by Iranian-backed forces – perhaps from as far away as Yemen.

Tensions are high between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme and a recent surge in sabotage attacks, some of which the arch-foes have blamed on each other.

Gulf countries also see Iran continuing destabilisation activities in the region, directly and through proxies. Early on Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Houthis intercepted a drone attack by the Iran-backed movement on the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, state media reported.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out raids in Syria, mostly targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops.

Israel has long sought to prevent bitter foe Iran from establishing itself in the war-torn nation.

And while the IDF has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria, it has rarely publicly acknowledged them.

The latest missile launch comes as tensions run high between Israel and Iran with Tehran promising “revenge” after the sabotage of its Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

Iran said it believes Israel was behind the incident — when a small explosion hit the plant’s electricity distribution earlier this month.

Israel did not claim responsibility for the incident, but unsourced media reports in the country attributed it to the Israeli security services carrying out a “cyber operation”.

The New York Times, quoting unnamed US and Israeli intelligence officials, also said there had been “an Israeli role” in the attack.