Israeli Merkava tanks are seen in a deployment area near the Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018.  (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli Merkava tanks are seen in a deployment area near the Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:05
Israel pounds Iranian targets across Syria
Several were killed and injured when an unknown gunman opened fire on a military parade in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz, Irans state television Press TV reported Saturday.
ISNA/ISNA
Several were killed and injured when an unknown gunman opened fire on a military parade in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz, Irans state television Press TV reported Saturday.
Now playing
01:35
Video shows aftermath of Iran parade attack
File: Israeli troops patrol the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights on January 18, 2015.
File: Israeli troops patrol the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights on January 18, 2015.
Now playing
00:58
Israel: Iranian forces fire rockets at Golan Heights
An Iranian war-boat fires a missile during the "Velayat-90" navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on December 30, 2011. Iran, which has been carrying out war games in the Strait of Hormuz over the past week, has said that "not a drop of oil" would pass through the strait if Western governments follow through with planned additional sanctions over its nuclear programme.
 AFP PHOTO/IIPA/ALI MOHAMMADI (Photo credit should read ALI MOHAMMADI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALI MOHAMMADI/AFP/Getty Images
An Iranian war-boat fires a missile during the "Velayat-90" navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on December 30, 2011. Iran, which has been carrying out war games in the Strait of Hormuz over the past week, has said that "not a drop of oil" would pass through the strait if Western governments follow through with planned additional sanctions over its nuclear programme. AFP PHOTO/IIPA/ALI MOHAMMADI (Photo credit should read ALI MOHAMMADI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:57
US: Major Iran naval exercises underway
An Iranian woman walks past a mural depicting the Statue of Liberty with a dead face, painted on the wall of the former US embassy in the capital Tehran on August 7, 2018 - US President Donald Trump warned countries against doing business with Iran today as he hailed the "most biting sanctions ever imposed", triggering a mix of anger, fear and defiance in Tehran. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
An Iranian woman walks past a mural depicting the Statue of Liberty with a dead face, painted on the wall of the former US embassy in the capital Tehran on August 7, 2018 - US President Donald Trump warned countries against doing business with Iran today as he hailed the "most biting sanctions ever imposed", triggering a mix of anger, fear and defiance in Tehran. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:46
Iranians say they don't hate Americans
Iran sanctions impact ordinary families.
CNN
Iran sanctions impact ordinary families.
Now playing
02:08
How US sanctions hit ordinary people in Iran
Iranian women chant slogans during an anti-US demonstration outside the former US embassy headquarters in the capital Tehran on May 9, 2018. - Iranians reacted with a mix of sadness, resignation and defiance on May 9 to US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal, with sharp divisions among officials on how best to respond.
For many, Trump's decision on Tuesday to pull out of the landmark nuclear deal marked the final death knell for the hope created when it was signed in 2015 that Iran might finally escape decades of isolation and US hostility. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
ATTA KENARE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Iranian women chant slogans during an anti-US demonstration outside the former US embassy headquarters in the capital Tehran on May 9, 2018. - Iranians reacted with a mix of sadness, resignation and defiance on May 9 to US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal, with sharp divisions among officials on how best to respond. For many, Trump's decision on Tuesday to pull out of the landmark nuclear deal marked the final death knell for the hope created when it was signed in 2015 that Iran might finally escape decades of isolation and US hostility. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:39
How will US pulling out of deal impact Iranians?
Iranian lawmakers burn two pieces of papers representing the U.S. flag and the nuclear deal as they chant slogans against the U.S. at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Iranian lawmakers have set a paper U.S. flag ablaze at parliament after President Donald Trump's nuclear deal pullout, shouting, "Death to America!". President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal on Tuesday and restored harsh sanctions against Iran. (AP Photo)
AP
Iranian lawmakers burn two pieces of papers representing the U.S. flag and the nuclear deal as they chant slogans against the U.S. at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Iranian lawmakers have set a paper U.S. flag ablaze at parliament after President Donald Trump's nuclear deal pullout, shouting, "Death to America!". President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal on Tuesday and restored harsh sanctions against Iran. (AP Photo)
Now playing
00:38
Watch: US flag set alight in Iran's parliament
Samin
Now playing
02:15
Risking it all by rejecting the hijab
My Stealthy Freedom and White Wednesdays
Now playing
01:32
Outrage after 'morality police' confront woman
An image grab taken from a handout video released by Iran's Mehr News agency reportedly shows a group of men pushing traffic barriers in a street in Tehran on December 30, 2017.
Ten people died overnight in fresh unrest in Iran, local media reported on January 1, 2018, despite President Hassan Rouhani calling for calm and vowing more "space for criticism" in a bid to head off days of protest. / AFP PHOTO / MEHR NEWS / Handout / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / MEHR NEWS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS 
NO RESALE - NO BBC PERSIAN / NO VOA PERSIAN / NO MANOTO TVHANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images
HANDOUT/MEHR NEWS/AFP/Getty Images
An image grab taken from a handout video released by Iran's Mehr News agency reportedly shows a group of men pushing traffic barriers in a street in Tehran on December 30, 2017. Ten people died overnight in fresh unrest in Iran, local media reported on January 1, 2018, despite President Hassan Rouhani calling for calm and vowing more "space for criticism" in a bid to head off days of protest. / AFP PHOTO / MEHR NEWS / Handout / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / MEHR NEWS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS NO RESALE - NO BBC PERSIAN / NO VOA PERSIAN / NO MANOTO TVHANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:32
Dashed hopes: Reasons Iran protests kicked off
Rod Rosenstein
pool
Rod Rosenstein
Now playing
01:39
DOJ: Iranians hacked US professors
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:41
Protests turn violent in Iran
Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017.
Students protested in a third day of demonstrations sparked by anger over Iran's economic problems, videos on social media showed, but were outnumbered by counter-demonstrators. / AFP PHOTO / STR        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. Students protested in a third day of demonstrations sparked by anger over Iran's economic problems, videos on social media showed, but were outnumbered by counter-demonstrators. / AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:08
Iranian officials: 'Provocateurs' to be targeted
A demonstration at the University of Tehran on Saturday
STR/AFP/Getty Images
A demonstration at the University of Tehran on Saturday
Now playing
01:47
Protesters angry over economy, corruption
A still frame from a YouTube video published on Friday, December 29 purporting to show a protest in Mashhad, Iran. CNN cannot independently confirm its authenticity.
YOUTUBE
A still frame from a YouTube video published on Friday, December 29 purporting to show a protest in Mashhad, Iran. CNN cannot independently confirm its authenticity.
Now playing
01:45
Why are citizens protesting in Iran?
Getty Images
Now playing
02:15
Why are Iran and Saudi Arabia so at odds?
Golan Heights CNN —  

Israel claims it struck almost all of Iran’s military capabilities in Syria after what it says was an Iranian missile attack on the Golan Heights.

In the most direct confrontation between Israel and Iran to date, the regional enemies exchanged fire for hours late Wednesday.

The extended barrage of fire comes amid soaring tensions between Israel and Iran, rivals battling for regional influence, and less than two days after the United States withdrew from the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

A long-exposure picture that reportedly shows Israeli missiles headed toward military targets in Syria.
ATEF SAFADI/EPA
A long-exposure picture that reportedly shows Israeli missiles headed toward military targets in Syria.

In a YouTube statement Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had “crossed a red line,” and that Israel’s action was appropriate.

Netanyahu spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May on the phone on Thursday evening. According to a readout of the call from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, the two spoke about “Iranian aggression, developments in the region, and the situation in Syria.”

Netanyahu thanked May for condemning Iran and affirming Israel’s right to defend itself.

“Whoever hits us will get hit seven times over. Whoever prepares themselves to attack us will be attacked first. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue doing,” Netanyahu said.

According to the UK government’s readout of the conversation, May called for “calm on all sides.” The sentiment was echoed by the European Union, which released a statement urging “all regional actors to show restraint and avoid any escalation, which could further undermine regional stability.”

Israel said more than 20 rockets were launched by Iranian forces in Syria in the direction of Israel late Wednesday, often criss-crossing in the clear night skies. A number of those rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system, resulting in bright and sudden explosions.

Israel retaliated with what appeared to be surface-to-surface missiles, and Syrian anti-aircraft batteries hosed the sky with fire in an effort to intercept them. Thunderclaps of Israeli artillery fire reverberated across the frontier between Syria and Israel, with the faint sound of impact echoing back moments later.

“Israel has hit almost all of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said. “If it will rain in Israel, there will be a biblical flood on the other side.”

He reiterated Israel’s stance that this latest offensive was not an ongoing operation, adding: “I hope this chapter is over, and everyone understands the situation, and we won’t have to spend nights in situation rooms.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel had successfully hit dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in what he described as “the largest operation against Iranian targets” in years.

Iran’s leaders have not yet issued a response to the Israeli accusations or the military strikes, but if confirmed it would be the first time Iranian forces have fired rockets directly at Israeli forces.

All night, drones buzzed overhead, heard but not seen in the darkness.

Three people were killed and two others were injured by the Israeli missiles, the Syrian military said in a statement. The strikes also destroyed a radar station, ammunition depot and caused material damage to Syria’s air defense, it said.

The Syrian military claimed that its air defense managed to intercept and destroy a “big part of the wave of Israeli missiles that targeted a number of our military positions.”

Golan Heights explained

  • The Golan Heights is considered Israeli-occupied territory, taken from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel officially annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
  • United Nations Security Council Resolutions have demanded the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, but Israeli leaders have made it clear they have no intention of conceding the strategic position to Syria.

In a statement delivered early Thursday, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces pinned the blame for the rocket fire on the Quds Force, an elite division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has forces in Syria and is often seen as the face of Iran’s regional ambitions.

Conricus said the rockets, which were targeted at front-line Israeli military positions in the Golan Heights, were all either downed by aerial defense systems or fell short and landed in Syria.

An Israeli soldiers stands on a closed road in the Golan Heights early Thursday.
JINIPIX/Xinhua/Sipa USA
An Israeli soldiers stands on a closed road in the Golan Heights early Thursday.

On Wednesday night, state-run Sana TV, in southern Syria, carried reports that Israel had fired several missiles at the city of Baath in Quneitra, none of which resulted in casualties.

A short time later, Syrian state-run media reported that while dozens of “hostile” Israeli missiles had been intercepted in Syrian airspace, at least two others had hit an ammunition depot and destroyed a radar site.

The targets included rocket launchers, intelligence posts, military command posts, and weapons depots. No Israeli fighter jets were hit in the strikes, but Conricus said they came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. He added that “ground assets were also used to strike into Syria.” The IDF released a map showing a list of targets it said it hit.

Russia, which like Iran has intervened in Syria’s war on the side of the government, called for “restraint on all sides.”

In a statement, the White House said: “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-defense.”

“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) bears full responsibility for the consequences of its reckless actions,” the statement added.

High alert

Israel had been expecting an Iranian response for some time, following a series of military strikes in Syria that targeted Iranian positions. Syria and Iran blamed those strikes on Israel, and Iran’s leaders vowed revenge.

One of the strikes occurred Tuesday night, only hours after President Donald Trump had withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, sparking fears of further destabilization in the Middle East.

A US defense official told CNN that it was an Israeli military strike that hit suspected Iranian weapons near Damascus. Israel has not commented on the strike.

On Tuesday, the IDF went on high alert in anticipation of an Iranian response, in addition to calling up a limited number of reserve troops “on an as needed basis.” Israel opened bomb shelters in the Golan Heights, but did not instruct people to enter the shelters.

On Wednesday morning, the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, visited the Golan Heights to meet with military and civilian leaders on the IDF’s assessment of the situation.

Israel says it has a series of “red lines” in Syria; among them, preventing Iran’s military entrenchment in the country. Netanyahu reiterated that in his statement Thursday, calling on the international community to prevent Iran’s Quds Force from basing in Syria. “We need to unite to dismember the arm of the evil that is spreading itself in every place,” he said.

Netanyahu also said Israel’s most recent strike was a message to the Assad regime.

He said Israel’s “operations are against Iranian targets in Syria, but if the Syrian army will act against us, we will act against them.”

“That is exactly what happened yesterday. [The] Syrian army fired ground-to-air missiles against, us so we hit them.”

Putin had urged restraint

On Wednesday, Netanyahu met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Victory Day, which marks the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany.

In a bilateral meeting after the celebrations, Netanyahu said that Israel has the “obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression, from Syrian territory. They are trying to transfer forces and deadly weapons there with the explicit goal of attacking the State of Israel. Certainly, it is Israel’s right to take such steps as necessary to defend itself against this aggression.”

Putin welcomes Netanyahu ahead of the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on Wednesday.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Putin welcomes Netanyahu ahead of the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on Wednesday.

Putin, as one of the few leaders who has good relations and significant influence with both Israel and Iran, urged restraint.

“The situation, unfortunately, is very acute. I want to hope that we will be able not only to discuss with you, but also to look for solutions that would soften the situation,” said Putin.

Russia and Israel coordinate their actions within Syria for the purpose of deconfliction. According to Conricus, Israel notified Russia before carrying out the overnight strikes.

Russian and Iranian intervention in Syria’s long-running civil war helped tilt the balance of power back toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Assad said fears of a third world war erupting in Syria were misplaced, despite escalating tensions.

00:47 - Source: CNN
IDF: Israeli airstrikes target Syrian military

Assad told the paper that “wise Russian leadership” would prevent such an event, describing the current conflict as “something more than a cold war, less than a full-blown war.” He also took aim at the US, saying the Russians “know that the agenda of the deep state in the United States is to create a conflict.”

Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 after capturing it from Syria in the Six Day War in 1967. The international community has never recognized the annexation and regards the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Salma Abdelaziz reported from Golan Heights. James Masters wrote from London. Sarah El Sirgany contributed to this report from Abu Dhabi. Hamdi Alkhshali contributed from Atlanta. Mike Schwartz, Ian Lee and Amir Tal contributed from Jerusalem.