JERUSALEM • The US yesterday said it supports Israel's right to defend its citizens after Iran's "provocative" rocket attacks launched from Syria amid increased tensions, following President Donald Trump's decision to quit the Iranian nuclear deal and impose broad sanctions.
In a statement, the White House said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bears responsibility for "reckless actions" and called on that force as well as its proxies, including Hizbollah, to make no additional provocations.
Israel responded by conducting its biggest raid in Syria in at least 30 years, saying Iranian forces there fired a barrage of missiles at the Israeli-held part of the Golan Heights.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement: "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-defence... 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."
The statement also called on all nations to "make clear" that Iran's attack is a threat to international peace and stability.
Russia, France and Germany urged restraint. Russia called on both nations to resolve their differences by diplomatic means, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
JOB DONE, MESSAGE DELIVERED
We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria. I hope we've finished this episode and everyone understood.
ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN
IT'S ABOUT WAR AND PEACE
The escalation of the last hours shows us that it's really about war and peace
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned: "The escalation of the last hours shows us that it's really about war and peace."
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement: "It is crucial to avoid any further escalations, which would be in no one's interest."
Among the first in the Arab nations, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid al Khalifa, also backed Israel. "As long as Iran has breached the status quo in the region and invaded countries with its forces and missiles, any state in the region, including Israel, is entitled to defend itself by destroying sources of danger," the minister, whose country is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, said on his official Twitter account.
A showdown had seemed inevitable between the two Middle East powers. Israel has been warning against Iran's growing influence in Syria, and Iran had vowed to retaliate for deadly suspected Israeli air strikes last month on Iranian positions there.
The raids that a monitor said killed 23 fighters 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. "I hope we've finished this episode and everyone understood."
Israel carried out the raids after it 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 Al Quds force, adding that Israel's anti-missile system intercepted four while the rest did not land in its territory. No Israelis were wounded.
If confirmed, the incident would be the first time Iran had sought to directly attack Israeli-controlled territory aside from an alleged attempted drone attack in February.
"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 elite Revolutionary Guard.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said dozens of rockets were fired from Syria towards the Israeli-occupied Golan, but did not confirm they were fired by Iranian forces.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG