The Israeli army says a Syrian anti-aircraft missile has missed its target and exploded near a nuclear facility in Dimona city in the country’s south, an attack a military spokesman said was likely an accident.
There were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage in the incident that triggered warning sirens in the area near the secretive Dimona nuclear reactor. The Israeli military said the nuclear site was not hit by the blast.
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Reporting from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said the Syrian missile that fell near Dimona was a sizeable blast that could be heard in Jerusalem, about 150km (93 miles) away from the site.
An Israeli military spokesman said the Syrian missile had been fired at Israeli aircraft during an earlier strike and had overflown its target and reached the Dimona area.
The errant Syrian missile was an SA-5, one of several fired at Israeli air force planes, according to the spokesman.
The Israeli military said that in response to the launch, it attacked several missile batteries in Syria, including the one that fired the projectile that struck its territory.
“A surface-to-air missile was fired from Syria to Israel’s southern Negev. In response, we struck the battery from which the missile was launched and additional surface-to-air batteries in Syria,” the Israeli military said.
‘Syria intercepts Israeli attack’
Syria’s state news agency, SANA, said Syrian air defences intercepted the Israeli attack that targeted areas in the Damascus suburbs early on Thursday.
“Air defences intercepted the rockets and downed most of them,” the SANA agency said. However, four soldiers were injured in the attack and some material damage took place, it said.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Israeli missiles hit the air defence base of the Syrian government in the town of Dmeir – roughly 40km (25 miles) northeast of Damascus.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out raids in Syria, mostly targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops. But it has rarely publicly acknowledged them.
Israel has long sought to prevent bitter foe Iran from establishing itself in the war-torn nation.
The latest missile launch comes as tensions run high between Israel and Iran, with Tehran promising “revenge” after the sabotage of its Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
Iran said it believes Israel was behind the incident – when a small explosion hit the plant’s electricity distribution earlier this month.
Israel did not claim responsibility for the incident, but unsourced media reports in the country attributed it to the Israeli security services carrying out a “cyber operation”.
The New York Times, quoting unnamed US and Israeli intelligence officials, also said there had been “an Israeli role” in the attack.
“In the context of what’s been happening in recent weeks, the very high tensions between Iran and Israel over Iran’s nuclear programme and the attack ascribed to Israel on the Iranian Natanz facility, there was immediate concern that this could be the next step in this shadow conflict, a very dangerous and escalatory one,” said Fawcett.
“However, what the Israeli military said took place was that a Syrian anti-craft battery targeting the incoming Israeli ordnance, overflew its target and went all the way into Israel and exploded over southern Israel. That is something that there is some precedent for,” he explained.