Netanyahu says Iran crossed ‘red line’ with rocket fire

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had crossed a "red line" by firing rockets at Israeli forces from Syria, leading to major Israeli air strikes on Thursday in the neighbouring country.

"Iran has crossed a red line. Our reaction was a consequence," the Israeli leader said in a video posted on social media.

"The Israeli army carried out an extensive attack against Iranian targets in Syria."

Iran has not claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

Israel carried out widespread deadly raids against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies.

Israel said 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights at around midnight.

It blamed the rocket fire on Iran's Quds force, adding that Israel's anti-missile system intercepted four while the rest did not land in its territory.

No Israelis were wounded.

"We are in a prolonged campaign and our policy is clear: We will not allow Iran to establish itself militarily in Syria," Netanyahu said.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres on Thursday appealed for an “immediate halt to all hostile acts” in the Middle East, following an escalating military confrontation between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria.
In the statement, Guterres also called on the Security Council to “remain actively seized of the matter and shoulder its responsibilities” under the UN Charter.

“The Secretary-General urges for an immediate halt to all hostile acts and any provocative actions to avoid a new conflagration in the region already embroiled in terrible conflicts with immense suffering of civilians,” a spokesman for Guterres said.

Israel launched dozens of punishing air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria on Thursday in retaliation for what it said was Iranian rocket fire on its positions in the occupied Golan Heights.

None of the Security Council’s 15 members were ready to call an emergency meeting on the situation -- which has prompted calls for restraint from the international community.

When asked if they would call an emergency meeting, ambassadors from Poland, Russia, France and Britain all responded: “Not at this point.”

Danny Danon, Israeli ambassador to the UN, sent letters to the Security Council and the secretary-general calling for condemnation of “Iran's acts of aggression.” He also asked the Security Council to “demand that Iran remove its military presence from Syria.”

Washington on Thursday condemned Iran for rocket fire targeting Israeli forces in the occupied Golan Heights, and voiced its “strong support” for Israel’s right to retaliate in “self-defense.”

“The United States condemns the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens, and we strongly support Israel’s right to act in self-defense,” said a White House statement.

The rocket attack came two days after President Donald Trump, ignoring the advice of his European allies, announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

The Israeli military said its warplanes struck 70 targets inside Syria, one of the biggest such operations in years. A British-based human rights monitor said 23 fighters were killed.

Russia, France and Germany called for restraint, insisting there be no further escalation.

The US statement, however, laid the blame squarely on Iran and urged “all nations to make clear that the Iranian regime’s action pose a severe threat to international peace and stability.”

“The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East.
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) bears full responsibility for the consequences of its reckless actions, and we call on the IRGC and its militant proxies, including Hezbollah, to take no further provocative steps,” it said.

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