Published: Sun, February 11, 2018
World News | By Laverne Osborne

Israel launches heavy Syria strikes after F-16 downed

Israel launches heavy Syria strikes after F-16 downed

Tensions ratcheted up on Saturday as an Israeli fighter jet that was part of a squadron launching air strikes on Syria was downed amid anti-aircraft missile fire, .

The Israeli military confirmed that one F-16 had gone down in northern Israel, and that its two pilots had ejected and had been located and transferred to hospital.

Iran's involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad in a almost seven-year-old civil war - including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat.

The incident in and of itself is a serious event and raises questions as to whether the drone was used as bait by the Iranians to drag Israeli jets into Syria, whose air defenses were laying in wait for them. A joint operation room of and its allies, and Hezbollah, denied the drone entered airspace. "However, we are not looking to escalate the situation".

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said Israel held Iran directly responsible for the incident.

The Israeli army claims to have the debris of the drone. When the drone entered Israeli airspace, it was blown up by an Apache helicopter over the town of Beit Shean.

The assertions by Israel regarding the downed Iranian drone "are too ridiculous to be addressed", Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Saturday, as quoted by state-run Press TV.

Both pilots aboard the Israeli jet are safe, the Israeli army said, although one pilot was severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation from the plane.

According to the statement, 12 targets were attacked inside Syria, including three Syrians air defense batteries and four Iranian targets that were part of Iran's buildup in Syria.

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Israel then launched a second bombing raid in Syria.

Russian Federation has also called for restraint in Syria to avoid escalating the situation.

Netanyahu, visiting the Golan on Tuesday, peered across the border into Syria and in public remarks warned Israel's enemies not to test its resolve.

"I also spoke with the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about today's developments and others", said Netanyahu.

Shortly after the raid, the Israeli army said it does not seek escalation in the region.

Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, urged the UN Security Council to condemn Iran's actions and halt its "provocations". "We consider it necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries of the region".

Israel also sent a similar message to the US administration to mediate to defuse tension between Israel and Lebanon over Israel's building of a border fence between the two countries.

Hizbollah and Israel last fought a major conflict in 2006.

In November, Israel said it shot down a Syrian reconnaissance drone over the demilitarised zone, and on February 8 shots were fired from Syrian territory at an Israeli drone, hitting a house in Majdal Shams, in Israeli-occupied Golan.

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