One Drone Enters Israeli Airspace; Israeli Bombs Syria in 'Largest Attack Since 1982'
February 11, 2018
Reuters & Muraselon: Syrian News & Al Jazeera
Anti-aircraft fire downed one of eight Israeli warplanes returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria in one of the most serious confrontations yet between Israel and Syrian forces based across the border. Israel claimed the airstrikes inside Syria were in retaliation for a drone that entered Israeli airspace and was shot down. But Israel has a history of violating Syrian airspace -- at least a half-dozen times since 2014 -- to attack targets that included the outskirts of Damascus, Syria's capital.
After More that a Half-dozen Bombing Raids inside Syria,
An Israeli Jet Is Brought Down by Syrian Air Defense Fire.
Videograb: At least 8 Israel jets attack a dozen targets inside Syria after drone invades Israeli airspace.
Israeli Jet Shot Down after Bombing Iranian Site in Syria
Maayan Lubell and Lisa Barrington / Reuters
JERUSALEM/BEIRUT (February 10, 2018) -- Anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria on Saturday in the most serious confrontations yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces based across the border.
The F-16, one of at least eight Israeli planes dispatched in response to what Israel said was an Iranian drone's incursion into its airspace earlier in the day, was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, an Israeli official told Reuters. Both pilots ejected and were injured, one critically.
Israel then launched a second and more intensive air raid, hitting what it said were 12 Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria, including Syrian air defense systems.
Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group said the downing of the plane marked the "start of a new strategic phase" that would limit Israel's ability to enter Syrian airspace.
Iran's involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad in a nearly 7-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. But Israel and Syria signaled 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".
"Israel seeks peace but we will continue to defend ourselves steadfastly against any attack against us or any attempt by Iran to establish itself against us in Syria," Netanyahu said in a televised statement. Russia, whose forces began intervening on behalf of Assad in 2015, expressed its concern and urged both sides to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.
Netanyahu said he had spoken by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that they agreed Israel-Russia military coordination in regard to Syria would continue. Putin told Netanyahu in the phone call that there was a need to avoid any steps that would lead to a new confrontation in the region, Interfax news agency reported.
A Western diplomat in the region said: "My impression is that it seems to be contained at this point. I don't think anybody wants to escalate further."
A Pentagon spokesman said the United States fully supported Israel's right to defend itself and a State Department spokeswoman said the United States is "deeply concerned" about the "escalation of violence over Israel's border."
CHAIN OF EVENTS
Saturday's chain of events began at 4:30 a.m. (0230 GMT) when an Israeli Apache helicopter shot down an Iranian drone over the northern town of Beit Shean, the Israeli military said. The drone had been sighted taking off from a base in Syria, and was intercepted after it crossed into Israeli territory, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.
Israeli planes then struck an Iranian installation in Syria from which, the Israeli military said, the unmanned aircraft had been operated. The Israeli military released grainy black and white footage of what it said was the drone's control vehicle in Syria being destroyed.
The F-16 crashed on its return from the mission, coming down in an empty field near Harduf, east of Haifa.
"We heard a big explosion and then sirens. We didn't know what was happening, we heard helicopters and planes in the air," said Yosi Sherer, 51, who was staying at a hostel in Beit Shean. Flights at Tel Aviv's international airport were briefly halted. The area was quiet by mid-afternoon.
Conricus said missile remnants were found near the crash site. "We don't know yet if it's an SA-5 or SA-17, but it's a Syrian anti-aircraft missile," he said. Israel then launched a second bombing raid in Syria.
The pro-Assad military alliance said Israel had attacked a drone base in central Syria but denied any of its drones had entered Israeli airspace. Iran rejected the Israeli version of events as "ridiculous".
David Ivry, a former Israeli Air Force chief, told Reuters he believed it was the first time an Israeli F-16 was brought down since Israel began using the jets in the 1980s.
Israel has long maintained air superiority in the region, mounting air strikes in Syria on a regular basis, targeting suspected weapons shipments to Hezbollah. Hezbollah said in a statement: "Today's developments mean the old equations have categorically ended."
Iranian and Iran-backed Shi'ite forces, including Hezbollah, have deployed widely in Syria in support of Assad. Iran's military chief warned Israel last October against breaching Syrian airspace and territory. 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.
An official in the pro-Assad alliance said after the downing of the F-16 that a "message" had been delivered to Israel. But he added: "I do not believe matters will develop to a regional war."
The Israeli military said it did not seek escalation, calling its action a defensive response to an Iranian act of aggression. "The tough part is how to continue to walk a tightrope, where neither side wants an all-out war, but no one wants to be the one who absorbed the blow and didn't respond appropriately," Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Israel's Channel 11 television.
The US administration has backed Israel's hawkish stance on Iran and declared containing Tehran's influence an objective of its Syria policy. On a visit to Israel last month, US Vice President Mike Pence called Iran the world's "leading state sponsor of terror".
"Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel's inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people," Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.
The View from Syria
Syrian Air Defense Systems Repel
Yet Another Israeli Attack -- Reports
Muraselon: Syrian News
DAMASCUS (February 10, 2018) -- Syrian anti-aircraft defense systems have repelled yet another Israeli aerial attack, local media reported Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the Israeli army said its helicopter downed an Iranian drone and struck Iranian targets in Syria, prompting fire from the Syrian air defense systems. As a result of the incident, one F-16 fighter jet came down with pilots able to eject.
According to the Telegram channel of the Syrian state television, the attacks were repelled over the Damascus province, however, it later deleted the information about the location.
Earlier in the day, Israel's army said in a press release its helicopter had successfully intercepted the drone that flew into its airspace from Syria.
It is a second attack by the Israeli forces on Syria in a week. On February 7, Israeli military aircraft reportedly launched several missiles at a target located in the Damascus province of Syria in what has become the latest IDF attack on Syrian soil.
In response to an airstrike carried out by Israeli warplanes in the Damascus province, the Syrian Foreign Ministry has penned a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and another to the UN Security Council.
"Israeli attacks are a continuation of an aggressive and dangerous approach by Israel aimed at supporting terrorist groups, which helps the latter to prolong the crisis in Syria and raises their morale, which sunk due to the gains made by the Syrian army and its allies," the letters said.
Tel Aviv and Damascus, which have never signed a peace treaty, have repeatedly exchanged tit-for-tat attacks, with the latest incident taking place in early January, when the Syrian government army thwarted three Israeli missile attacks on Damascus countryside. Syria reportedly warned the Israeli side about the risks posed by such attacks.
Israeli Air Force General:
Syria Strike Is "The Most Substantial Since 1982"
Haaretz & Muraselon
(February 10, 2018) -- Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, second in command of Israel's Air Force, said Saturday that the Israeli strike in Syria Saturday morning -- after an Israeli F-16 was shot down -- was "the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses" since the 1982 Lebanon War.
The Israeli military said it has struck 12 targets in Syria, which included four Syrian air-defense batteries and four Iranian sites after the F-16 crashed. The fighter jet was one of the planes sent to attack in Syria in response to the drone incursion earlier on Saturday.
According to Bar, "the drone control vehicle was moving and we succeeded in hitting it -- also an impressive achievement given the conditions on the ground." Israel, he said, waited for the drone to enter its territory and "chose where to bring it down."
Syrian Army: Israel Launches Air Strikes Near Damascus
(January 9, 2018) -- Israel launched a series of predawn air strikes then followed up with artillery fire on an army base near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syria's military said.
The allegation was not denied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when questioned by reporters later on Tuesday. . . . After the air raids, Israel also launched rockets from the occupied Golan Heights, but the Syrian military intercepted them, the army statement said.
Israeli Missiles Hit Army Base Near Damascus: Reports
(December 2, 2017) -- Israeli missiles attacked a military position near Damascus overnight and Syria's air defence system thwarted them, Syrian state television said on Saturday. The "blatant assault" led to material losses at the site in the countryside around the capital, it said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on reports of the attack. . . . Sources told Al Jazeera that the Israeli raid was aimed at government military sites and positions of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and that the sound of large explosions caused by the raid was heard in Damascus and its surroundings. The Observatory further reported power outages in many areas of the Syrian capital.
Israel Again Fires Missiles at Syria Site: Observatory
(December 4, 2017) -- Israel again fired missiles at a Syrian military facility near Damascus late on Monday, according to a war monitor, the second reported Israeli strike in Syria in the past week.
Syrian forces responded by firing anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli jets, Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen reported, adding the Israeli attack targeted a scientific research centre near Jamraya on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.
Israeli Jets Strike Military Facility in Hama: Syria
(September 7, 2017) -- Israeli fighter jets have struck a military facility in western Syria, killing two people, according to a Syrian commander quoted by the state-run news agency SANA. The army statement said the air strike caused material damage near the town of Masyaf and warned against the "dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region."
The air raid was carried out from Lebanese airspace and two people were killed at the site, SANA said, adding that it would embolden "terrorists" in Syria fighting the government.
Israel Carries Out Air Strikes inside Syria
(March 17, 2017) -- The Israeli army says its aircraft have carried out several strikes inside Syria, prompting Syrian forces to retaliate with ground-to-air missiles, one of which was intercepted. Thursday night's attack was one of the most serious incidents between the two countries, which remain technically at war, since civil war broke out in Syria in March 2011. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the strikes targeted "advanced" weapons bound for Hezbollah, the Lebanese group that fought a war with Israel in 2006 and is now fighting alongside the Syrian government.
Syria Says Israeli Jets Hit Damascus
(December 7, 2014) -- Syria has accused Israel of carrying out air strikes against two government-held areas in Damascus province, one of them near the Damascus international airport. There was no immediate reaction to Sunday's report from the Israeli authorities.
"The Israeli enemy attacked Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the area of Damascus International Airport," state TV said. The state-owned Al Ikhbariya TV station reported no casualties, but said "the Israeli enemy committed a heinous attack by targeting two peaceful areas in the Damascus countryside".