Israel Strikes Targets In Syria After Jet Shot Down

Israel Strikes Targets In Syria After Jet Shot Down

Syria's air defence systems downed an Israeli F-16 jet after Israel's air force launched strikes inside the neighbouring country, in a serious escalation of tensions.

One of those planes, a United States-made F-16, crashed on its return from that mission, landing in an empty field near near the northern Israeli village of Harduf, and one of the pilots was injured as they ejected, the Israeli military said.

The raids came a few hours after Israel allegedly shot down an Iranian drone over Syria. The joint command of the Syrian regime's allied forces - including Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah - denied in a statement any violation of Israeli airspace. "However, we are not looking to escalate the situation", a spokesman said.

But both Israel and Syria signalled they were not seeking wider conflict, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed to military headquarters in Tel Aviv, and the pro-Assad alliance pledged a strong response to any Israeli "terrorist action".

Moscow expressed its concerns over Saturday's developments, warning against attacking its interests in Syria.

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At approximately 4.30 am, local time, Israeli forces sighted a drone being launched from a site within Syria.

"This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory".

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the situation in Syria in a telephone call, Interfax news agency cited the Kremlin as saying.

Earlier, the IDF said that a combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syria war through activists on the ground, said the airstrike targeted positions of the Syrian army and its allies in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus, which is home to a government research center and was also hit in December. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Tehran "believes Syria has the right to legitimate self-defence".

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Despite the escalation on the northern border, some 100,000 people visited national parks throughout the country on Saturday, including in the north, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said. "Israel will defend its citizens and will not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty".

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

Israel has repeatedly warned in recent weeks against the presence of Iranian forces in neighbouring Syria.

Russian Federation views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria, but with today's events, the message Israel passed to Tehran via Moscow was either not received or was ignored by the Islamic Republic, which is investing serious efforts in how Syria will look once the disastrous war ends. "It is necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries in the region".

United Nations soldiers look out on a post at Mount Avital, in the Golan Heights near the Israeli Syrian border, February 10, 2018.

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