Air-raid sirens sounded in the southern district of Abu Qrenat, with local media reporting "loud explosions" that "shook the houses" after what Israeli army said was a Syrian missile that hit near top-secret nuclear facility.

Dimona is the desert town that is home to the country's secretive nuclear reactor. [File]
Dimona is the desert town that is home to the country's secretive nuclear reactor. [File] (Reuters)

A missile launched from Syria has struck Israel's Negev desert region, setting off air raid sirens near the country's top-secret nuclear reactor, the Israeli military said. 

In response to Thursday's incident, it said it struck the missile launcher and other targets in neighbouring Syria.

The Israeli army said the missile landed in the Negev region and the air raid sirens were sounded in a village near Dimona, where Israel's nuclear reactor is located. 

There was no word on whether anything had been struck, but explosions were reported across Israel.

The incident near the Dimona nuclear reactor, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, pointed to likely Iranian involvement. 

Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria, has accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including a recent fire at its Natanz nuclear facility, and vowed revenge.

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Explosion 'shook the houses'

Siren alerts are generally activated by rocket attacks, especially those from besieged Gaza.

A Reuters news agency reporter about 90 km away from Abu Qrenat heard the sound of an explosion early on Thursday minutes before the military's text message.

According to the Jerusalem Post, residents from across the country, including central Israel and Jerusalem, reported hearing "loud explosions" that "shook the houses."

The explosion was reportedly the result of a patriot battery responding to a missile launched toward Israel, The Post said.

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Missile 'came from Syria'  

Israeli military radio said the blast near Dimona nuclear reactor was caused by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that overflew its target. 

Syrian regime said its air defence intercepted the Israeli attack.

Syrian air defences intercepted an Israeli attack in the direction of the Golan heights, local media reported.

The attack took place at around 01:38 local time and targeted areas in the Damascus suburbs, it said.

"Air defences intercepted the rockets and downed most of them," it said. 

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Israel-Iran rivalry 

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and its archenemy Iran. 

The Iranians have blamed Israel for a series of incidents targeting Iran's nuclear facilities and vowed revenge.

Israel has not openly commented on the incidents, but it has signalled possible involvement.

Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and has opposed US-led efforts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, and has noted that Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear weapons programme in Dimona.

Israel neither confirms nor denies claims it has nuclear weapons.

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Iran newspaper on Dimona strike 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's incident. 

But on Saturday, Iran's Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei suggesting Israel's Dimona facility be targeted after the attack on Natanz. 

Zarei cited the idea of "an eye for an eye" in his remarks.

Action should be taken "against the nuclear facility in Dimona," he wrote. "This is because no other action is at the same level as the Natanz incident."

While Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.

Zarei has demanded retaliatory strikes on Israel in the past. 

In November, he suggested Iran strike the Israeli port city of Haifa over Israel's suspected involvement in the killing of a scientist who founded Iran's military nuclear programme decades earlier. 

However, Iran did not retaliate then.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies