Israel unleashes military attack on Syria after fighter jet is downed

Posted February 11, 2018

The incident, which triggered sirens in the northern Golan Heights, is believed to be Israel's most significant involvement in Syria since the war began there some seven years ago.

Israeli, Syrian, and Iranian military forces clashed Saturday in a series of audacious strikes that could mark a new and risky phase in both a long-simmering cross-border conflict and Syria's long civil war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the situation in Syria in a telephone call on Saturday after heavy Israeli air strikes in the country, Interfax news agency cited the Kremlin as saying.

"My impression is that it seems to be contained at this point", a Western diplomat in the region told Reuters.

Israel said several of the sites it targeted on Saturday "are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria".

Four Iranian targets in Syria and eight Syrian ones belonging to the Fourth Syrian division near Damascus were attacked, according to the IDF.

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The United States voiced its support for Israel after the Jewish state struck Iranian positions inside Syria on Saturday, following the interception of an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace, blaming Iran for an escalation of violence. The plane crashed Kibbutz near Harduf in the Lower Galil south of Shfaram on Shabbos.

Syria's responding anti-aircraft fire led to the apparent downing of an Israeli F-16, in which two pilots were injured, one seriously and another lightly.

As a result of the incident, one Israeli F-16 fighter jet came down in northern Israel with pilots able to eject.

The area was quiet by mid-afternoon.

The chain of events started at about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, when an Iranian drone penetrated into Israeli air space, said the IDF.

Israel said the fighter jet crashed during a mission to strike Iranian drone installations in Syria.

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Israel, which also operates drones, has long maintained air superiority in the region.

Iranian and Iran-backed Shi'ite forces, including Hezbollah, have deployed widely in Syria in support of Assad.

Hours earlier Israel said it had downed an Iranian drone that had infiltrated its airspace.

The U.S. - and Russian-backed forces had a common enemy in the Islamic State, but as the fight against ISIS forces is winding down, new conflicts seem to be rising in Syria.

An official in the pro-Assad alliance said after the downing of the F-16 that a "message" had been delivered to Israel.

Iran has denied this, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahran Qasemi calling the claim "ridiculous". "We want peace but we are prepared for any scenario and I suggest that no one test us", he said.

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Last year, Israel pushed back against a partial cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russian Federation, arguing that it allowed Iranian expansion near Israel's borders.