Jerusalem, Feb 10: The Israeli Army said it launched “large-scale attacks” against the aerial defence system and Iranian targets in Syria following the shooting down of an Israeli F-16 fighter on Saturday in a major escalation of tension in the region.
Twelve targets, including three aerial defence batteries and four Iranian targets that were part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria were attacked, according to a statement by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Efe news reported.
The Israeli action came following the IDF’s announcement that one of its military jets had crashed after coming under fire from anti-aircraft missiles in Syria.
The F-16 fighter was on a mission to strike Iranian drone installations in Syria, where Iranian and Iran-backed forces have established a major foothold while fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
The IDF said its pilots managed to eject themselves and land safely inside their territory. One of the pilots was severely injured.
Hours earlier Israel said it had downed an Iranian drone that had infiltrated its airspace.
“The IDF sees the Iranian attack and the Syrian response as a severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty,” the Israeli Army said.
“We are willing, prepared and capable to exact a heavy price from anyone that attacks us, however we are not looking to escalate the situation,” the military spokesman said.
Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was currently holding an emergency meeting with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Iran’s expanding clout during Syria’s nearly seven-year-long war, including deployments of Iran-backed forces near the Golan frontier, has raised alarm in Israel, which has said it would act against any threat from its regional arch-enemy Tehran.
The International Crisis Group warned in a report this week against increased tension and called on Russia to mediate to maintain the current containment agreements, under which Iranian forces should stay away from Israel-controlled territory.