Nuclear fearsSyrian Missile Explodes Near Israel’s Dimona Nuclear Reactor

Published 22 April 2021

A Syrian missile landed and exploded about forty miles from Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona. The IDF described the incident as unintentional: A Russia-made SA-5 was launched by a Syrian air defense unit, aiming at an IDF aircraft attacking Syrian military targets near Damascus. It appears that the Syrian missile had missed its target, and continued its flight trajectory which carried it all the way to the Negev desert, about 300 kilometers south of Damascus. There is unease in Israel over the fact that the missile managed to evade Israel’s robust anti-missile defenses.

A Syrian missile exploded near Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor last night. The Israeli military was quick to state that the Syrian missile entered Israeli air space not as an intentional strike.

Rather, the Russia-made SA-5 surface-to-air missile was launched by a Syrian air defense unit, aiming at an IDF aircraft attacking Syrian military targets near Damascus. It appears that the Syrian missile had missed its target, and continued its flight trajectory which carried it all the way to the Negev desert, about 300 kilometers south of Damascus.

Israel has a robust anti-missile defense system, but the IDF has not said whether the Syrian missile was intercepted or not. Observers note that the explosions which were heard as far away as Jerusalem and Modiin, in the center of Israel, may have been the sound of anti-missile missiles trying to intercept the Syrian missile.

The IDF launched an immediate retaliatory strike, destroying the Syrian anti-aircraft battery responsible for launching the SA-5. Other Syrian targets nearby were also destroyed.

The highly unusual penetration by a Syrian missile of Israel’s airspace cause unease in Israel, coming as it does two weeks after an Israeli operation caused serious damage to Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. Iran vowed to take revenge, and it has the ability to do so from Syria, where its forces control large swaths of Syrian territory and operate largely autonomously of the Assad regime.

For a Syrian SA-5 to land forty miles from the Dimona reactor is unusual, but Syrian defense missiles have escaped Syrian air space in the past.

Two Syrian air defense missiles have landed in Israel in 2018, one in Jordan in 2017, and another in the northern part of Cyprus in 2019. In 2018, another Syrian anti-aircraft missile hit and destroyed a Russian surveillance plane off the Syrian coast. Russian military sources hinted at the time that the reason for the mishap was Israel’s ability to “mask” the Russian plane, making it look as an Israeli plane to the Syrian defense units.

Last August, Israel successfully tested a new and improved interceptor, Arrow 2, developed in collaboration with the United States. The interceptor was developed to meet enhanced Iranian missile capabilities, demonstrated in the stealthy Iranian missile attack on Saudi oil fields on 14 September 2019.

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