6 killed in Syria after Israel retaliates for rocket attack
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Israeli airstrikes in southern Syria killed six people and wounded seven, Syrian state TV reported Friday, in retaliation for a rocket attack on Israel the previous day that Israeli officials blamed on militants backed by Iran.
Four rockets exploded in an open field in northern Galilee on Thursday. There were no injuries but it was the first time since the 1973 Mideast war that rockets from Syrian territory have slammed into Israel. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Syrian state TV said an Israeli drone strike on Friday targeted a “civilian car” close to a busy market in the village of Kom, killing five people. Ahmad Sheikh Abdul-Qader, governor of the southern region of Quneitra, said the attack happened on the road leading to the village of Khan Arnabeh, near Kom, and destroyed the car.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the country’s war, said the five dead were members of the pro-government National Defense Forces. It did not elaborate.
Syrian state TV also said an Israeli air raid overnight in Quneitra killed a soldier and wounded seven.
The Israeli military did not comment on the reported casualties but said it carried out a raid Friday morning on “part of the terror cell responsible for the rocket fire at northern Israel.”
Also Friday, Israel submitted a demarche to the United States and five other nations that negotiated last month’s Iran nuclear deal, blaming Tehran for Thursday’s rocket attack from Syria. The rare diplomatic action comes as Israel is increasingly at odds with its U.S. ally over the nuclear deal.
In the demarche, Israel said it has “credible information that the attack was carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad” and “was facilitated and directed by an Iranian operative.”
Since the rocket fire, Israel has named Saeed Izaadhi, who it says heads the Palestinian division of Iran’s elite Quds Force, as having orchestrated the attack but has produced no evidence to back that claim.
“This is another clear and blatant demonstration of Iran’s continued and unabating support and involvement in terrorist attacks against Israel and the region in general,” the demarche said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that “the military struck the cell that carried out the shooting and the Syrian forces that allowed it. We have no intention of escalating events.”
“Those countries that are quick to embrace Iran should know that it was an Iranian commander who endorsed and directed the cell that fired at Israel,” Netanyahu added.
In Gaza, the Islamic Jihad group denied involvement in the rocket attack.
Syrian TV, meanwhile, said the air raids aimed to “boost the morale of terrorist organizations,” claiming that Israel is backing militants in the area.
Israel and Syria are bitter enemies. Israel has avoided taking sides in the Syrian civil war, which pits Assad’s government against an array of militants, including the brutal Islamic State group.
Deitch reported from in Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.