Israel planes on Saturday carried out attacks on “Iranian targets” in Syria after intercepting a drone, with one F16 fighter downed by heavy anti-aircraft counter fire, a military spokesman said.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus wrote on Twitter that the plane had crashed in Israel but that the pilots were safe, saying that the incident occurred as Israeli forces attacked the “Iranian control systems in Israel” responsible for the launch of the drone.
Israeli police said the F16 crashed in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. The pilots were taken to hospital for treatment, according to the military, with one seriously wounded and the other lightly.
In a separate statement, the military said that a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel.”
It said it had carried out “large-scale” attacks on at least a dozen Iranian targets in Syria in response to the drone’s intrusion into Israeli airspace.
Mutual blame game
The Syrian state news agency SANA quoted an unidentified military source as saying Syrian forces had responded with anti-aircraft fire to an Israel act of “aggression” against a military base and that more than one Israeli plane had been hit.
The Israeli military insists that only one plane was affected.
Israel’s targeting of an Iranian site in Syria marks an escalation in military action involving the three countries and is one of the most serious incidents of its type since the Syrian civil conflict began eight years ago.
Iran and its Lebanese militia ally, Hezbollah, are both major players in Syria’s multi-faceted civil war,while Israel has experienced spillover violence from the fighting; shooting down several drones that have tried to infiltrate its territory among other things.
Israel has of late been warning of increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon, fearing that Iran could use Syrian territory as a base for attacks.
Israeli missiles also this week targeted a Syrian military research center near Damascus.