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Threat of Larger War Soars as Israel Claims Credit for Massive Attack on "Iranian Targets" in Syria

Syrian government denounced the Israeli bombing campaign as "aggressive conduct" that "will lead to nothing but an increase in tensions in the region"

After carrying out its airstrikes—which reportedly sent 70 missiles careening into Syria—Israel claimed it is "not looking to escalate" tensions in the region. (Photo: AP)

Dramatically escalating the risk of an all-out regional war in the aftermath of U.S. President Donald Trump's violation of the Iran nuclear accord, Israel launched an "extensive" bombing campaign against what it claimed were Iranian targets in Syria early Thursday and warned the Syrian government that it will face "dire consequences" if it dares to respond.

"So I guess all the major western media outlets are going to push the Israeli line about iran firing at Israel without first verifying? Maybe just reprint IDF press releases to save time. You guys are gonna help start a war at this rate."
—Rania Khalek, independent journalist

"We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria," Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted at a security conference following Thursday's morning airstrikes. "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."

The Syrian foreign ministry, meanwhile, denounced the Israeli bombing campaign as step toward "direct confrontation" that "indicates the start of a new phase of aggression."

"This aggressive conduct by the Zionist entity...will lead to nothing but an increase in tensions in the region," one government official said, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

While Western corporate media coverage of the bombardment and the responses of European nations have framed the Israeli bombing campaign as a "response" to an alleged Iranian missile attack from Syria, independent journalists and experts were quick to note that Israel attacked first with missile strikes on Tuesday—strikes some argued were aimed at provoking a reaction from Iranian forces.

Analysts also raised questions about the media's blind acceptance of Israel's claim that it was Iranian forces that fired missiles at the occupied Golan Heights, pointing to claims by Syrian officials that it was their own army that fired the missiles in response to Israel's earlier attack.

In a series of tweets late Wednesday as reports of Israel's bombing campaign began to swirl, National Iranian Council president Trita Parsi argued that Trump's decision to violate the nuclear deal and level new threats against Iran may be viewed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "green light" to attempt to "provoke an Iranian response that will be used as a pretext for a wider war."

"Hence, the Israeli strikes in Syria are meant to trigger a larger war," Parsi wrote, laying out possible explanations for the ramped up bombing campaigns in Syria.

Robert Fisk, who has repeatedly challenged dominant U.S. media narratives on the Syrian civil war and other Middle East crises, argued in a column for The Independent on Thursday that the "latest overnight Israeli air strikes, supposedly at Iranian forces in Syria after a supposed Iranian rocket attack on Israeli forces in Golan—and it's important to use the 'supposed' and not take all this at face value—must have been known to the Americans in advance."

According to the Syrian government, the Israeli airstrikes killed three people and injured two, though a significant portion of the missiles were intercepted.

After carrying out its airstrikes—which reportedly sent 70 missiles careening into Syria—Israel claimed it is "not looking to escalate" tensions in the region.

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