The incident represents the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years and indicates possible Iranian involvement.
Iran, which maintains forces in Syria, accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including sabotage at the Natanz complex on April 11, and has vowed to retaliate. It also threatened to complicate the US-led attempts to restore the international nuclear deal with Iran.
The Israeli army said that the missile hit the Negev region and sirens went off near Dimona, where the Israeli nuclear reactor is located, and other explosions were reported in the country. The army later said that the missile did not cause any damage.
Iran did not immediately claim responsibility or comment, but the Iranian newspaper “Kayhan” published on Saturday an opinion piece by analyst Saadullah Zaree, in which it indicated that the Israeli Dimona facility should be targeted after the attack on Natanz. Al-Zari cited the idea of ”an eye for an eye.”
Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, but its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by the Supreme Leader “Ayatollah” Ali Khamenei and is described as a former advisor.
The nuclear reactor in Dimona is seen as the centerpiece of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Israel does not confirm or deny that it has a massive nuclear arsenal.
Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and opposes efforts led by the United States to return to the international nuclear deal with Iran, and with encouragement from Israel, US President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018.
Iran recently began enriching a small amount of uranium to a purity of 60%, the highest level ever. However, Iran insists that the program is aimed at peaceful goals.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that Israel will not allow Iran to develop its ability to possess nuclear weapons. Israel twice bombed other countries in the Middle East to target its nuclear programs.
All events took place at a time when Iran was negotiating in Vienna with world powers on the issue of the nuclear deal, but it initially warned that “there will be no direct or indirect talks” with the United States.
Negotiators have described the talks as constructive so far, although they are aware that sabotage in Natanz could affect the talks.
The government of Israel said that the agreement will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and reminded that it does not address the long-range missile program and the country’s support for terrorist groups in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.
For its part, Iran said that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and called for more scrutiny of Israel’s nuclear facilities in Dimona.