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Monitor Says 42 Killed In Israeli Strikes In Syria This Week

Merkel, Macron urge Iran and Israel to exercise restraint

"We will expand our missile capabilities despite western pressure (to curb it).to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed", the hardline cleric said during Friday prayers at Tehran University. Iranian media, on the other hand, claimed that Syrian forces orchestrated the attack.

Here is a look at why the two countries are at each's other throats and why Syria could be the ground for a showdown.

The strikes dramatically ramped up tensions in the region days after US President Donald Trump announced a withdrawal from an worldwide deal that had aimed at easing tensions between Iran and the West.

Iran's Foreign Ministry strongly condemned Israel's attacks and called it a blatant violation of Syria's sovereignty.

The turning point between the Israel-Syrian confrontation appeared in February, when the Syrian army said it shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet, which targeted an air base in the central province of Homs on the pretext that an Iranian drone was sent from the base and infiltrated the Israeli airspace. Israel fears that will allow Iran to more easily transfer weapons to Hezbollah, Lebanon's powerful Shiite guerrilla force, and reinforce the militant group's influence over the region.

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Israel has carried out more than 100 air strikes on Syrian soil, mainly to prevent Iran from sending advanced weaponry via Syria's air bases to Hezbollah.

Tension has been building.

In separate strike late Tuesday, a military outpost near the capital Damascus was hit with missiles fired from Israel, the Syrian government said.

After U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, the long-simmering rivalry between Israel and Iran boiled over across the Syrian border.

The 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for the lifting of most of the US and worldwide sanctions against Tehran.

In a lengthy government statement on Friday, the Iranian government warned that it would take "whatever reciprocal measures it deems expedient" if it is not fully compensated for the USA withdrawal from the nuclear agreement as provided for in the accord.

Tehran has not completely walked away from the nuclear deal, since the Europeans are still participating.

Earlier, thousands of Iranians took to the streets in cities across the country to protest against the USA withdrawl. Hostile rhetoric has escalated over the decades since.

In recent months, Israel has shifted its focus to directly striking Iranian military installations in Syria.

But unlike Israel and its Arab neighbors, the two countries have never had a direct confrontation. Following that strike, Israel launched a wave of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, prompting Russian Federation to fire at Israeli missiles and warn Israel not to violate Syrian air space again.

Is the Mideast sliding to an all-encompassing, ruinous war?

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A little over one day after President Donald Trump withdrew the USA from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, the Israeli military launched attacks on dozens of Iran-linked military targets in besieged Syria in response to reported rocket fire in the Golan Heights. Saudi Arabia already accuses Iran of providing missiles that Yemeni rebels have fired toward Riyadh.