JERUSALEM – Israeli Armed forces carried out a large-scale attack on Iranian targets in Syria and the Syrian air defense system following the shooting down of an Israeli Air Force fighter on Saturday, an official source said.
During the attack, anti-missile batteries were fired on by Israeli aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles were launched against Israel’s planes, triggering anti-aircraft alarms in the occupied Golan Heights in the north of Israel for the second time this Saturday.
“Moments ago, IAF aircraft, targeted the Syrian Aerial Defense System & Iranian targets in Syria,” the Israel Defense Forces said on their official Twitter account.
It added that “12 targets, including 3 aerial defense batteries & 4 Iranian military targets, were attacked. Anti-aircraft missiles were fired towards Israel, triggering alarms in northern Israel,” the statement said.
The Israeli Air Force F-16 plane was hit and brought down as fighters attacked Iranian targets after the IDF had intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria into Israeli airspace.
Jonathan Conricus, head of Israel’s international media desk said his country was willing, prepared, and capable to exact a heavy price any attacks. “However, we are not looking to escalate the situation,” Conricus said.
The F-16 crashed in Israeli territory from where the pilots were evacuated to a health center; one of them being seriously wounded.
“This morning, an IAF pilot was severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation from an IAF aircraft,” The IDF said on its official Twitter account. “The pilot was evacuated to the hospital for medical treatment. The incident is being reviewed. The family has been notified,” the statement said.
There is no record of an Israeli aircraft having been lost previously in the Syrian conflict.
In a separate incident in Afrin, north Syria, a helicopter belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces was shot down in an operation over a Kurdish canton, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
“A moment ago, a helicopter of ours was shot down, they will pay dearly,” Erdogan said when evaluating the Turkish military operation in Afrin against Kurdish militias including the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The president did not provide further details about the incident, which would be the most serious loss of the Turkish Armed Forces since the launching of Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to expel the YPG from Afrin.
The Israeli military stressed that the Iranian attacks and Syrian response are “severe violations of Israeli sovereignty,” adding that the army is “ready for various scenarios” and will “continue to act as necessary.”
Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs expressed great concern over the Israeli attacks on Syrian territory and called for restraint on all sides.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously voiced his concern over the increase of pro-Iranian forces in Syria, where they back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The International Crisis Group warned in a report this week against increased tension in the north and called on Russia to mediate to maintain the current containment agreements, under which Iranian forces should stay away from Israel-controlled territory.