Israeli strikes on several areas of Syria on Wednesday night killed at least 23 fighters, including five Syrian regime troops and 18 other allied forces, a monitor said on Thursday, according to news agency AFP. Israel's army said on Thursday it had carried out widespread raids against Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday night after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies. The incident came after weeks of rising tensions and followed US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from a key 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a move Israel had long advocated. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an officer was among the regime troops killed in the strikes and that the casualties included foreigners. Israel's army said it hit dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria. The Russian defence ministry, whose country has forces in Syria supporting the regime, said 28 Israeli warplanes took part in the raids and around 70 missiles were fired. The raids were one of the largest Israeli military operations in recent years and the biggest such assault on Iranian targets, the military said. Areas near Damascus and in the southwest of Syria were among the targets, the Observatory said. The strikes "caused human losses in a number of the targeted areas", it said, adding the death toll was likely to rise. Israel said it targeted Syrian positions after rocket fire towards its forces in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that it blamed on Iran. A senior military pro-regime source in Syria confirmed the salvo of rockets, but insisted Israel fired first. The strikes come after the Syrian army late Tuesday said it intercepted two Israeli missiles, while the Observatory said eight Iranians were among 15 foreign pro-regime fighters killed in that attack. Since the start of Syria's civil war in 2011, Israel has repeatedly targeted positions of the Syrian army and Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah backing it inside the country. Here are the top 10 developments on Israel striking Iranian targets in Syria: 1. US condemns Iran's provocative rocket attacks from Syria: Iran's "reckless" deployment of offensive rocket and missile systems into Syria aimed at Israel is a highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East, the White House said on Thursday, underlining that Israel has a "right to act in self-defence". The response by the White House came after Israel accused Iran of launching 20 rockets from installations in Syria at Israeli military outposts in the Golan Heights.
The response by the White House came after Israel accused Iran of launching 20 rockets from installations in Syria at Israeli military outposts in the Golan Heights.2. Israel destroys Iranian infra in Syria in largest operation since 1974: In the largest operation in Syria since the signing of disengagement agreement in 1974, Israel on Thursday said it has struck almost all of the Iranian infrastructure on Syrian soil during the overnight raids in retaliation to a barrage of rocket fire on its territory by Iran.
The Israel Defence Force (IDF) claimed that the overnight clash, the largest-ever direct clash between the Iranian and Israeli armies, was a setback to Iran's military capabilities by "many months".
Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that his army struck "almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria" overnight in response to a rocket barrage at its military outposts in the Golan Heights by Iran.3. Israel strikes on Syria kill at least 23 fighters: Israeli strikes on several areas of Syria on Wednesday night killed at least 23 fighters, including five Syrian regime troops and 18 other allied forces. Israel's army said it hit dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria. The Russian defence ministry, whose country has forces in Syria supporting the regime, said 28 Israeli warplanes took part in the raids and around 70 missiles were fired. 4. Major Israeli raids hit 'Iranian' targets in Syria after rocket fire: Israel's army said on Thursday it had carried out widespread raids against Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday night after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies.
The raids were one of the largest Israeli military operations in recent years and the biggest such assault on Iranian targets, the military said.
"We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria," Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told a security conference on Thursday morning.
"They need to remember the saying that if it rains on us, it'll storm on them.
I hope we've finished this episode and everyone understood," Lieberman added. Israel carried out the raids after it said around 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad-type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights at around Wednesday midnight. 5. Israel blames rocket fire on Iran's Al-Quds force: Israel blamed the rocket fire on Iran's Al-Quds force, adding that Israel's anti-missile system intercepted four of the projectiles while the rest did not land in its territory.
If confirmed, the incident would be the first such rocket fire by Iranian forces in Syria towards Israel.
"We know that comes from the al-Quds force," army spokesman lieutenant-colonel Jonathan Conricus said, referring to the special forces unit affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said dozens of rockets were fired from Syria toward the Israeli-occupied Golan, but did not confirm they were fired by Iranian forces.
It alleged the rockets followed a "first Israeli bombardment on the town of Baath" in Quneitra province. An Israeli military statement said, "this Iranian aggression is another proof of the intentions behind the establishment of the Iranian regime in Syria and the threat it poses to Israel and regional stability." 6. Syria says Israel fired first: A senior pro-regime military source in Syria confirmed the salvo of rockets, but insisted Israel had fired first. In the early hours of Thursday morning, explosions were heard in Damascus, while live images were broadcast on television showing projectiles above the Syrian capital and several missiles destroyed by Syrian anti-aircraft systems.
Syrian state media reported that Israeli missile strikes had hit military bases as well as an arms depot and a military radar installation, without specifying the locations.
The official SANA news agency added that "dozens of missiles were shot down by anti-aircraft systems in Syrian airspace", saying a number of missiles had reached their targets.
Israel's military later confirmed it had carried out the raids, saying dozens of Iranian military targets had been struck and all of its aircraft had returned safely. 7. Russia calls for 'dialogue' between Israel and Iran, says Sergei Lavrov: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday called for dialogue between Israel and Iran following Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria that marked a sharp escalation between the two enemies.
"This is a very disturbing trend. We proceed from the fact that all issues should be solved through dialogue," Lavrov said at a press conference, adding that Moscow warned Israel to avoid "all actions that could be seen as provocative.
8. French Prez Emmanuel Macros calls for 'de-escalation' between Israel and Iran: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called for "de-escalation" between Israel and Iran, adding that he would discuss the issue later in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Israel has long warned that it will not accept Iran entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria, where Tehran is supporting President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the country's seven-year civil war.
Israel has been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that have killed Iranians, though it did not acknowledge those raids.
It does acknowledge carrying out dozens of raids in Syria to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Iran-backed Hezbollah, another key foe of Israel.
Israel had been preparing itself for weeks for possible Iranian retaliation.
Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal has added to tensions and led to a new level of uncertainty over how Iran will respond. 9. Netanyahu held talks with Putin: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday evening that Israel has the "obligation and right" to defend itself against Iranian aggression from the Syrian territory.
He made the comments during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the two leaders discussed the developments in the Middle East, Xinhua reported.
"The Iranians declare their intention to attack us," Netanyahu's office cited him as saying in a statement.
Iran is trying to transfer forces and deadly weapons to Syria with the "explicit goal" of attacking Israel as part of their strategy to destroy it, he added.
Netanyahu also presented his perspectives on issues including Iran's secret nuclear archive obtained by Israel's spy agency and the rising tension between the two countries. 10. Trump warns Iran of 'severe consequences' for starting nuke programme: A day after he announced the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned Tehran of severe consequences if it restarted its nuclear weapons programme.
If they do, there will be very severe consequences, Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
He was responding to a question on what the US will do if Iran starts up its nuclear programme again. Iran will find out. They're going to find out. I don't think they should do that. I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear programme. I would advise them very strongly, he answered.
Describing the Iranian nuclear deal as one sided, Trump said it ultimately was going to lead to nuclear proliferation all over the Middle East.