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Israel says it strikes targets in Syria after missile attack

by The Associated Press | April 21, 2021 at 9:19 p.m.
This file image made from a video aired Friday, Jan. 7, 2005, by Israeli television station Channel 10 shows what the television station claims is Israel's top-secret nuclear facility in the southern Israeli town of Dimona, the first detailed video of the site ever shown to the public. Early Thursday, April 22, 2021, air raid sirens sounded in Dimona, indicating a possible incoming attack. (Channel 10 via AP)

JERUSALEM — A missile launched from Syria was fired into southern Israel early Thursday, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, the Israeli military said. In response, it said it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.

The Israeli army said it had deployed a missile-defense system but could not confirm if the incoming missile was intercepted, though it said there had been no damage. The air raid sirens were sounded in Abu Krinat, a village just a few miles from Dimona, the Negev desert town where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located. Explosions heard across Israel might have been the air-defense systems.

The Israeli military initially described the weapon fired as a surface-to-air missile, which is usually used for air defense against warplanes or other missiles. That could suggest the Syrian missile had targeted Israeli warplanes but missed and flown off errantly. However, Dimona is some 185 miles south of Damascus, a long range for an errantly fired surface-to-air missile.

Syria’s state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said four soldiers had been wounded in an Israeli strike near Damascus, which also caused some damage. The agency did not elaborate other than to claim its air defense intercepted “most of the enemy missiles,” which it said were fired from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the missile strike or comment from Iran. But on Saturday, Iran’s hard-line Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei suggesting Israel’s Dimona facility be targeted after the attack on Natanz. Zarei cited the idea of “an eye for an eye” in his remarks.

Action should be taken “against the nuclear facility in Dimona,” he wrote. “This is because no other action is at the same level as the Natanz incident.”

The Dimona reactor is widely believed to be the centerpiece of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Israel neither confirms nor denies having a nuclear arsenal.

While Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.

All the incidents come as Iran negotiates in Vienna with world powers over the U.S. potentially re-entering its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Negotiators there have described the talks as constructive so far, though they acknowledge the Natanz sabotage could strain the talks.

Israel’s government says the deal will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. It also says it does not address Iran’s long-range missile program and its support for hostile proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.

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