The Israeli military announced an F-16 fighter jet crashed in northern Israel on Saturday following a mission over Syrian territory. The downing of the Israeli plane marks the first Israeli aircraft lost to hostile fire since 1982.
According to Israeli officials, the Israeli warplane was struck by an Syrian anti-aircraft missile after it completed a combat mission over the skies of Syria.
Israel had ordered a series of strikes — eight in Syria and four in Iran — after Israeli forces identified and destroyed an Iranian drone which breached Israeli airspace early Saturday morning. Israel says Iran’s drone was controlled from a base in Syria.
Israel’s objective is to halt the transfer of weapons from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah — a Tehran-backed Lebanese militant group whose stated goal is to destroy the Jewish state. Since 2012, Israel has intercepted nearly 100 attempted Iran-Hezbollah weapons transfers.
Israeli military officials say an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle launched from inside Syria was shot and destroyed. Captured on video, Israel says it targeted the control site in Syria from which the drone operated with a “surgical” airstrike.
Responding to the Iranian provocation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Syria further incitement from either country would be met with a military response:
“Yesterday we landed hard blows on the forces of Iran and Syria. We made unequivocally clear to everyone that our modus operandi has not changed one bit.”
After the downing of the Israeli aircraft, Israel ordered more-intensive raids in Syria, targeting several areas in southern Syria that Israel believes host Iranian military personnel and equipment.
While Israeli military action over Syria is not unusual, the downing of an aircraft marks a serious rise in the stakes in the Middle East. While Israel said it did not want the matter to escalate, it said it was willing to “pay a heavy price” to defend itself.
[RT] [AP] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Reuters/Ronen Zvulun]