Iran overnight finally launched its long-anticipated retaliatory attack on Israel after a series of IAF strikes on Iranian targets in Syria over the past three months.
At 12:15 AM, the “Code Red” alert went off in scores of Israeli communities on the Golan Heights, forcing residents into their bomb shelters.
Shortly afterwards, Iran launched 30 missiles at Israel, and at least one of them was aimed at the city of Safed in the northern Galilee. That missile (most likely an upgraded Scud) was subsequently intercepted by the Patriot anti-missile system.
This reporter witnessed first-hand how the Iron Dome anti-missile shield downed four Fajr or Grad missiles in the skies above the Golan Heights, and how Israeli fighter jets continuously took off for four hours during an extensive offensive against Iran in Syria.
On the Iranian side, the first direct confrontation with the Israeli military was overseen by Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, who has overseen virtually every major battle in Iraq and Syria over the past four years.
“It was ordered and commanded by Qassem Soleimani and it has not achieved its purpose,” IDF spokesman Lieutenant-General Jonathan Conricus told reporters, referring to the third Iranian attempt to strike targets in Israel.
The other two attempts took place on Febr. 10 when a large Iranian attack drone attempted to strike the Israeli city of Bet Shean in the northern Jordan Valley, and on April 19 when Iran reportedly deployed three attack drones which took off from the al-Kiswah base near Damascus which was attacked by the IAF on Wednesday night.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu who arrived in Israel after a short trip to Moscow reportedly got a green light of Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch the massive counter-attack against Iran in Syria.
Russia is able to shoot down virtually every plane departing from bases north of the Negev desert in Israel by using the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. But it didn’t.
The four-hour Israeli offensive in Syria set back the Iranian military built up in the country by many months, according to the IDF. A military spokesman reported more than 50 airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria, according to Israeli TV Channel 10.
The Israeli army also released an animated video showing an Iranian Ouragon multi-barrel launcher near the al-Kiswah base, which was destroyed before it could launch its missiles on Israel.
Another IDF spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, told Channel 10 that the IAF strikes destroyed Iranian intelligence facilities, logistic headquarters, observation posts, weapon storage facilities and the Ouragon launcher near al-Kiswah.
Manelis warned that the fighting with Iran is not yet over, and that the Israeli army is prepared for “any scenario.” That could allude to fears that Iran might activate its military arm in Lebanon: the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Hezbollah has at its disposal more than 130,000 missiles that can now reach every part of Israel.
Up untill now, Hezbollah has not participated in the hostilities against Israel, despite reports of intensive IAF activity in Lebanese airspace and a claim that the IAF hit a Hezbollah position near the Israeli-Syrian border last night.
As I wrote on Wednesday, Iran is careful not to engage Israel in all-out war and has always used disruptive and asymmetric warfare since its devastating war with Iraq in the 1980s. Iran knows that it is the weaker party when it comes to conventional warfare.
This doesn’t mean, however, that Iran will now be deterred from continuing its military build-up in Syria.
The IRGC in Syria is constantly flying in new advanced weaponry, such as the Fateh 313 short-range ballistic missile and the Fateh 110 guided missile with an upgraded range of 300 km.
Israel is, therefore, expected to continue its preemptive strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and is prepared to absorb Iranian missiles “raining on the north, while causing a flood in Iran” in response, as Defense Minister Liberman put it after the dramatic events early Thursday morning.