Israel downs Iranian drone; F-16 crashes in Syria

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‘Large-scale’ raids hit Iranian targets in Syria

Jerusalem

The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that “infiltrated the country” early on Saturday and struck Iranian targets in Syria that launched it, in what the military called a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty”.
The military said its planes faced heavy anti-aircraft counter fire from Syria that forced Israeli pilots to abandon an F-16 jet that crashed in northern Israel. It said the pilots were injured and evacuated to a hospital. Sirens sounded in northern Israel as a result of massive Syrian fire.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Iran was “responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty”.
The military says it is “monitoring events and is fully prepared for further action”.
Syrian state TV quoted a military official saying that Syrian air defenses hit more than one Israeli plane. The official said the Israeli raids hit a base in the country’s central area, and called it a “new aggression”.
Israel has been warning of late of increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon. It fears Iran could use Syrian territory to stage attacks or create a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon that could allow it to transfer weapons more easily to Hezbollah.
Israel has shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria. The targeting of an Iranian site in response, however, marks an escalation in the Israeli retaliation. The military confirmed that the Syrian target — the unmanned aircraft’s launch components — was successfully destroyed. The military’s top military brass was meeting to coordinate Israel’s continued response.
Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said Israel held Iran directly responsible for the incident.
The confrontation was the most serious between arch foes Israel and Iran since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011. Israel’s raids came after it intercepted what it said was an Iranian drone entering its airspace from Syria.
It marked the first time Israel publicly acknowledged attacking what it identified as Iranian targets in Syria since the war began. The Israeli military issued a warning to Tehran, saying it was responsible for the drone that entered Israel, which it labelled an “attack.”
It said its reprisals after the exchange were “large-scale” raids.”A few minutes ago, (Israeli aircraft)… targeted the Syrian Aerial Defence System and Iranian targets in Syria,” a military statement said.
“Twelve targets, including three aerial defence batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria were attacked.”
Meanwhile, Iran rejected as “ridiculous” reports that Israel had intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria on Saturday, state TV reported. Separately, a Revolutionary Guards’ official said he could not confirm the report because Israelis were “liars”.
“Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous,” state TV quoted Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.—Agencies

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