A Syrian surface-to-air missile exploded in southern Israel early Thursday (April 22), the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said, in an incident that triggered warning sirens in an area near Dimona, the Negev desert town where the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor is situated.
Local residents voiced concerns on social media regarding a loud explosion and reports of homes shaking. The IDF told Sputnik News that the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center had not been damaged by the missile attack.
The IDF also explained in a statement that Israeli forces attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.
“A surface-to-air missile was fired from Syria to Israel’s southern Negev,” IDF tweeted.“In response, we struck the battery from which the missile was launched and additional surface-to-air batteries in Syria.”
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) subsequently reported that Syrian air defense systems had been activated to repel “Israeli aggression.” SANA said Syrian air defence batteries successfully intercepted most of the missiles. Quoting a military source, SANA said four soldiers were wounded and there were “some material losses”.
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 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Damascus. The strikes destroyed air defence batteries, the Observatory said, with some casualties.
The incident comes on the heels of a recent escalation in tensions between Israel and Iran, which has vowed to retaliate after Tehran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant came under an attack.
Earlier this month a small explosion hit the plant’s electricity distribution.
Israel did not claim responsibility for the incident. The New York Times, quoting unnamed US and Israeli intelligence officials, said there had been “an Israeli role” in the attack.
Iran’s Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece on Saturday (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.
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.
With reporting by Sputnik News, AFP, SANA, Arab News