Israel launches heavy air strike in Syria after F-16 crash

Marie Harrington
February 11, 2018

Israel said its aircraft targeted 12 sites in Syria in response to an Iranian drone launched from Syria infiltrating its airspace earlier in the day.

The drone entered Israeli airspace at 4:50 a.m. local time Saturday after being tracked by the Israeli military from its launch from the Iranian T-4 command center near Palmyra, Syria, Conricus said.

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet crashed Saturday in northern Israel after coming under "massive anti-aircraft fire" from Syrian forces, according to the Israeli army.

The incidents marked the most serious confrontations in Syria between Israel and Iranian-backed forces that have established a major foothold in the country while fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad in a almost seven-year-old civil war.

Sources in Damascus said there were casualties among Syrian forces. Some Israeli observers have said it is hard to imagine that the Russians there would not have known about the Iranian drone or the subsequent antiaircraft fire.

Israel said it had sent its jets into Syria after shooting down an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory on Saturday.

Open conflict across the Syrian border is unlikely to be in the interest of either Israel or Iran-aligned forces at the moment.

The incident marks the most significant confrontation between Israel and Syria and Iran since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011. Across the border the event was taken as a victory, with dozens of Lebanese celebrating and waving Hezbollah's flag.

The militant Islamic group Hezbollah said the downing of the jet marked the "start of a new strategic phase".

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The statement went on to say, "Today's developments mean the old equations have categorically ended".

Iran dismissed Israel's claims that Israeli forces downed one of its drones and that Iran was involved in an attack.

Netanyahu has been seeking to persuade Russian Federation to limit Iran's presence near Israeli territory and to stop it from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the prime minister office in Jerusalem.

"The Russian side called for any steps, which might trigger a new spiral of risky confrontations for all in the region, to be avoided", the Kremlin press service said. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasem called the Israeli claim "ridiculous". This past week, USA warplanes bombed pro-government forces after they allegedly advanced on US -backed forces in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

Israel conducted airstrikes in Syria, which were provoked, according to the Israeli army, by an "act of Iran's aggression", when an Iranian drone flew into the disputed Israel-occupied Golan Heights last night. Tzipi Livni of the opposition Zionist Union faction said the government must do more to build worldwide backing for Israeli attacks in Syria. Israel "showed how determined it is not to allow Iran to have the Middle East the way it wants it".

"But I don't think Iran will stop building up its military presence because of the Israeli strikes, because [Israel has] been doing it for a year and it hasn't stopped them", he added.

A military alliance backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that any other incursion by Israel would be met with "serious and fierce" retaliation. Police said the F16 crashed in the Jezreel valley in northern Israel.

"Before, it was done through proxies", for example by the Syrian regime or the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Nader said.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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