(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s army instructed municipalities in the Golan Heights to open bomb shelters in the northern plateau after noticing “irregular activity” of Iranian forces in Syria that raised fears of an impending attack on Israel. A few hours later, massive explosions were reported at a military base near Damascus in an attack attributed to Israel.
"Defense systems have been deployed and IDF troops are on high alert for an attack," the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said by text message. "The IDF is prepared for various scenarios and warns that any aggression against Israel will be met with a severe response."
Israel’s Channel 13 television reported Israel attacked rockets and rocket launchers in Syria, without citing any sources. Syrian media claimed the attack on the army base near Damascus targeted Iranian missiles aimed at Israel. The IDF spokesman refused to comment.
The reported attack came shortly after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was pulling out of the international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, arguing the deal allowed Iran to reach the verge of a nuclear weapons arsenal. The step could increase the chances of a confrontation between Iran and Israel, which is determined to prevent the Islamic Republic from entrenching itself militarily in Syria. Israel considers Iran’s nuclear program a potentially existential threat after some Iranian leaders have threatened to annihilate Israel.
Israel’s Hadashot News reported Tuesday night that Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome anti-missile systems had been deployed on the Golan. Ynet reported that several cities in the north of Israel also readied bomb shelters on their own initiative.
The move to open bomb shelters comes as Israel braces for a response to recent strikes inside Syria, several of which killed Iranian military personnel; Iran has vowed to exact revenge. Israel refuses to confirm or deny that it was behind the attacks, though a senior Israeli official who briefed journalists Sunday strongly suggested that it was.
Tensions between Israel and Iran have soared since February, when the IDF shot down what it said was an armed Iranian drone that penetrated Israeli airspace en route to carrying out an attack. Israel then destroyed what it described as the Iranian command and control center in Syria that dispatched the drone. Iran denies having sent the drone.
Israeli officials have confirmed the Jewish state has carried out dozens of attacks in recent years on convoys of Iranian weapons being sent through Syria to Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy militia in Lebanon.
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