Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona in the Negev desert

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz has acknowledged that an Assad regime anti-aircraft missile fell near the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona before dawn on Thursday.

The missile exploded in mid-air about 20 miles short of the secretive facility, where Israel developed its first atomic bomb in 1966. Fragments fell to the ground, as air raid sirens rang out.

Gantz explained that the regime’s forces were firing at Israeli jets attacking pro-Assad targets near Damascus, but the errant missile traversed 125 miles of Israeli airspace and was not intercepted by Israel’s air defense.

“In most cases we achieve other results. This is a slightly more complex case. We will investigate it and move on,” Gantz said.

Israel’s military said it bombed the “battery from which the missile was launched and additional Syrian surface-to-air batteries in the area”. A pro-Syrian opposition analyst reports that a regime captain was killed, and several troops wounded.

Regime Quiet But Iran Brags

The Assad regime was careful not to portray a deliberate attack on Israel, which has periodically carried out airstrikes on regime and Iranian bases and facilities since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

The Foreign Ministry made no reference to the errant missile, while denouncing Israeli “aggression”.

See also Israel Hits Iran Targets in Syria, Retaliating for Attack on Ship

But Iranian officials came close to portraying a designed assault exposing Israeli weakness. A senior Revolutionary Guards officer, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, boasted:

Last weekend the Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is appointed by the Supreme Leader’s office, called for an attack on the Dimona reactor as retaliation for a blast — likely overseen by Israel — damaging Iran’s main nuclear complex at Natanz.

See also After Attack on Nuclear Complex, Iran Toughens Line on Sanctions and Talks

State outlet Press TV, trying to refute Gantz, proclaimed, “Many observers, however, provided different assessments.” Its source is the pro-Assad conspiracy fantasist Mimi al-Laham — “Partisan Girl” on Twitter — who said from Australia, “I think that this is a lie.”

Errant Assad regime missiles, targeting opponents in southwest Syria, have occasionally landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel has retaliated with strikes on regime positions and personnel.

The regime has only successfully responded once to Israel’s attacks. In early 2017, an anti-aircraft missile downed an Israeli jet in northern Israel.

In September 2018, a regime missile accidentally downed a Russian surveillance plane over the eastern Mediterranean, killing all 15 personnel on board.

The head of US forces in the Middle East, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the incident “reflects incompetence in Syrian air defense, where they were responding to Israeli strikes on targets in Syria”.

He added, “I do not believe it was an intentional attack but just rather lack of capability.”