THE Israeli military has said it attacked nearly all of Iran’s military installations in neighbouring Syria in response to an Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the occupied Golan Heights.

It is the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.

Israel said the strikes, its largest in Syria since the 1973 war, targeted weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centres used by elite Iranian forces in Syria.

It also said it destroyed several Syrian air defence systems after coming under heavy fire and that none of its warplanes were hit.

Iranian media described the attacks as “unprecedented”, but there was no official Iranian comment on Israel’s claims.

The air strikes killed three people, wounded two and destroyed a radar station, an ammunition warehouse, and damaged air defence units, according to the Syrian military.

Brigadier general, Ali Mayhoub, who read the statement on television, said Syrian air defence systems had intercepted “the large part” of the incoming Israeli strikes.

Israel has acknowledged carrying out more than 100 air strikes in neighbouring Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011, most believed to be aimed at suspected Iranian weapons shipments bound for the Hezbollah militant group.

But in recent weeks, Israel has shifted to a more direct and public confrontation with Iran. Iranian troops have been killed in strikes against Iranian bases, weapons depots and rocket launchers across Syria.

Israel accuses Tehran of seeking to establish a foothold on its doorstep. Iran, meanwhile, has vowed to retaliate.

Russia’s military reported that 28 Israeli jets were involved in the most recent attack, striking at several Iranian and government sites in Syria with 70 missiles – half of which were thought to have been shot down.

Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted Israel would respond fiercely to any further Iranian actions.

He said: “We will not let Iran turn Syria into a forward base against Israel. We, of course, struck almost all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria, and they need to remember this arrogance of theirs.

“If we get rain, they’ll get a flood. I hope that we ended this chapter and that everyone understood.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the overnight attacks struck several Syrian and Iran-backed military posts near the capital, Damascus, in central Syria and in southern Syria.

The attacks killed 23 fighters, including five Syrian soldiers, according to the observatory. It said it was not immediately clear if Iranians were among those killed.

Damascus was shaken by explosions just before dawn, and firing by Syrian air defences over the city was heard for more than five hours.

Israel said early on Thursday that Iran’s Quds Force fired 20 rockets at Israeli front-line military positions in the Golan Heights.

Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 war, annexing it in 1981 in a move not recognised internationally. In 1974, Israel and Syria reached a ceasefire deal that froze the conflict lines with the plateau in Israeli hands.

Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said four of the rockets were intercepted, while the others fell short of their targets. The incoming attack set off air raid sirens in the Golan.

He said Israel was not looking to escalate the situation but that troops will continue to be on “very high alert”.

“Should there be another Iranian attack, we will be prepared for it,” he said.

Iran, which is trying to salvage an international nuclear deal, is thought to be wary of military action with superior Israeli forces.