The Israeli military said it struck dozens of Iran-linked military targets in Syria on Thursday in response to rocket fire, marking a significant escalation in regional hostilities a little more than a day after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
Israel said the attacks followed a volley of rockets directed at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, which caused no casualties.
The Israeli military blamed the attack on Iran’s Quds Force, a special forces unit affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and said this marked the first time that Iranian forces have fired directly on Israeli troops.
Syrian and Iranian news outlets accused Israel of firing the first shot, saying it was Syria that had responded after Israel targeted the Syrian town of Quneitra with artillery fire and missiles. There was no official response from the Iranian government.
The rocket fire was followed by Israel’s largest intervention in neighboring Syria in decades. Jets headed for Syria screamed over northern Israel for more than four hours, and about 70 previously identified targets were hit, according to the Israeli military.
“This was by far the largest strike we have done, but it was focused on Iranian sites,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. Syrian antiaircraft batteries were also targeted after they fired on Israeli planes, he added.
In a statement carried by Syria’s state news agency, an unidentified…