JERUSALEM, Israel – Syrian State media reported late Sunday night that the country’s air defenses were activated in Damascus and nearby suburbs in response to an Israeli missile attack.
The TV report said most of the missiles were shot down before reaching their targets. The report gave no information on injuries or casualties.
Israel’s military rarely comments on reports of its activity in Syria but has carried out hundreds of airstrikes there.
Israeli media said the missiles targeted Iranian sites and characterized them as retaliation for the blast on the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman on Friday. Israeli officials believe Iran is responsible for the unexplained explosion.
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Prime Minister Netanyahu told Israel’s national public radio broadcast on Monday, “This was indeed an operation by Iran. That is clear.”
Aviv Kochavi, Chief of Staff of Israel’s military, said on Sunday that the blast is a reminder that “Iran is not only a nuclear threat, but that it spreads terrorism and carries out terrorism and actions against civilian targets.”
Iran denied it had anything to do with the incident.
The cargo ship’s crew was unharmed in Friday’s blast, but the vessel sustained two holes. Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the mysterious explosion.
The damaged ship is currently docked in Dubai for repairs.
The cause of the explosion remains unclear but comes amid rising tensions between Tehran and Washington over Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran has sought to pressure the US into lifting crippling economic sanctions the Trump administration placed on the country when former president Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the landmark 2015 nuclear deal in 2018. President Joe Biden wants to negotiate a stronger nuclear deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but says he will not lift the sanctions until Iran returns to its obligations under the agreement.
Iran rejected a formal invitation from the European Union on Sunday to meet with the US and other original signatories of the deal. A senior administration official said the US was “disappointed” by Iran’s rejection of the invitation, but also considered it to be apart of the diplomatic process.
Israel opposes negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program and claims Tehran acted in bad faith when it signed the original 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
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