Israel hits Syrian targets after F-16 crashes in anti-aircraft fire

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Israeli military carried out a “large-scale attack” Saturday against the Syrian Aerial Defense System and Iranian targets in Syria after it said Syrian anti-aircraft fire shot down one of its F-16 jets.

The confrontation started when a Iranian drone penetrated Israeli’s northern airspace from Syria and a helicopter downed the un-manned object around 4:30 a.m., Israel’s military said.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said in a report by Haaretz that the drone “is in our possession.” The Iranian Foreign Ministry, though, disputed that description of the drone’s downing. Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi called it “so ridiculous.”

Amid a retaliatory bombing run on the area where the drone was launched, two Israeli F-16 pilots ejected as their plane went down in northern Israel. Both were hospitalized — one in stable condition and the other listed in serious condition.

Syrian television said its country’s defense systems hit more than than one Israeli aircraft.

The New York Times reported this appeared to be the first time since the early 1980s that enemy fire downed an Israeli jet.

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory,” Manelis said. “Iran is dragging the region into a situation in which it doesn’t know how it will end. We are prepared for a variety of incidents … whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

In response to the jet crash, Israel said it attacked 12 additional targets “that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria.”

Opposition sources said those targets included a control tower of a Syrian military airfield near Damascus and a weapons depot near the Syrian capital.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s alliance of Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah warned Israel new “terrorism” will be met with a “severe and serious response.”

Russia urged both sides to show restraint and called it “unacceptable” to endanger Russian soldiers in Syria.

Syrian army officials said the drone was carrying out a routine mission against the Islamic State over Syrian airspace, according to the news site Al-Manar.

But regarding the downing of the Israeli F-16, Syria’s Allies Command said “we hail the brave retaliation of Damascus.”

Air-raid sirens sounded later in the Israeli-held Golan Heights and in the Galilee area of northern Israel, though there were no immediate reports of incoming fire.

“The Syrians are playing with fire that they are allowing the Iranians to attack Israel from their soil,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. “The IDF is ready and capable to inflict a heavy price on anyone that attacks us. This is a severe attack and a breach of Israeli sovereignty perpetrated by Iran.”

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