A missile launched from Syria exploded worryingly close to Israel’s nuclear reactor in the Negev town of Dimona during the predawn hours Thursday.
Air raid sirens sounded throughout the area, and the sound of the missile exploding in mid-air could reportedly be heard in Jerusalem.
But IDF officials were quick to stress that this did not appear to be a deliberate attack on the Dimona reactor. Rather, the missile was an air defense projectile that had missed an Israeli jet taking part in airstrikes on Iranian targets, and had continued on its trajectory until it landed in the Negev.
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The IDF spokesman said that the missile in question was a Russian-made SA-5s anti-aircraft missile, which is a relatively large projectile with a 200-kilogram warhead, thus explaining the massive explosion. Debris from the missile landed in the Israeli community of Ashalim, just 40 kilometers from Dimona.
An investigation has been launched into why Israel’s air defense failed to intercept the Syrian missile. The army did detect the missile in time, and an interceptor was fired, but failed to hit the Syrian projectile.
Israeli forces retaliated by carrying out a second round of airstrikes that destroyed the battery responsible for the errant missile, as well as additional Syrian air defenses.
While for most Israelis the conflicts in Syria and other parts of the Middle East often seem a world away, Thursday morning’s incident was a stark reminder of how small this country is, and how quickly we can all suddenly find ourselves on the frontlines.