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Israel Intercepts Syria Rockets        11/19 06:13

   JERUSALEM (AP) -- The Israeli military said it intercepted four incoming 
rockets from Syria on Tuesday and explosions were heard shortly after that in 
Damascus, a week after another Israeli strike targeted a top Palestinian 
militant in the Syrian capital.

   Israeli air defense systems captured the projectiles, the military said, and 
no harm was caused to Israeli communities in the Golan Heights after warning 
sirens awoke residents there early in the morning. There was no immediate 
official comment from Syria but the SANA state news agency reported explosions 
were heard near Damascus International Airport, indicating a potential Israeli 
retaliatory strike.

   The Israeli military would not comment on the explosions in Syria, but 
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett was convening the top military brass in Tel 
Aviv to discuss the latest developments.

   Speaking on Israel Army Radio, Foreign Minister Israel Katz was equally 
vague, saying only that "Israel will act in the way it sees fit."

   The rare rocket fire comes a week after an Israeli airstrike against a top 
Palestinian militant based in Syria. Akram al-Ajouri, a member of the 
leadership of the militant Islamic Jihad group who is living in exile, survived 
the attack but his son and granddaughter were killed.

   Israel frequently strikes Iranian interests in Syria. But last week's 
airstrike appeared to be a rare assassination attempt of a Palestinian militant 
in the Syrian capital. It came the same day as another Israeli airstrike killed 
a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, settling off the fiercest round of 
fighting there in years.

   It all comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iranian proxies 
along its borders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a 
series of warnings recently about Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East.

   Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel's northern neighbor, and supports 
Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, 
weapons and expertise.

   Netanyahu also has claimed Iran is using Iraq and far-off Yemen, where 
Tehran supports Shiite Houthi rebels at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing 
the government, to plan attacks against Israel. Hamas also receives some 
support from Iran.

   At the same time, Iran's regional influence is being challenged by 
unprecedented, economically-driven mass protests in Iraq and Lebanon --- two 
countries where Tehran wields major influence. The protests are creating unrest 
that Tehran fears would spark a backlash against Iran-backed proxy militias in 
those countries.

   Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused the U.S. and its 
regional allies of fomenting the Iraq and Lebanon unrest.


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