Israel said it launched air strikes against air defenses and Iranian targets in Syria on Saturday while the Syrian army claimed to have shot down an Israeli F-16 that crashed into northern Israel.
The Israeli army said the F-16 plane crashed during a mission to attack facilities where Iranian drones were leaving Syria.
Israel said it had sent its planes to Syria after it shot down an Iranian drone that flew over Israeli territory earlier on Saturday. Israel said its fighter jets were attacked in Syria, although it was not yet clear why the plane crashed.
“Twelve targets, including three air defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military installations in Syria, were attacked,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
“During the attack, anti-aircraft missiles were fired at Israel, which caused alarms that were heard in northern Israel,” the army said.
Syrian state media reported two separate Israeli attacks.
A military source said Syrian air defenses had opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base, hitting “more than one plane.”
Later, Syrian state media said that air defenses were responding to a new Israeli assault and that air defenses had thwarted attacks on military positions in southern Syria.
Iran’s growing influence during Syria’s nearly seven-year war, including deployments of Iran-backed forces near the border of the Golan, has raised alarm in Israel, which has said it will act against any threat from its archenemy in Tehran.
The incidents on Saturday marked a new and dangerous confrontation between the international powers caught in the war in Syria.
Iran and the Shiite forces backed by the country, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have been widely deployed in support of Assad. The Iranian military chief warned Israel last October against the violation of airspace and Syrian territory.
Israel said one of its attack helicopters shot down an Iranian drone around 4.30 a.m. (0230 GMT) that had arrived from Syria to Israel. “In response, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) attacked Iranian targets in Syria,” the army said.
The Israeli military spokesman, Jonathan Conricus, said that a “substantial” number of Israeli warplanes in the mission had been exposed to a “massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire”, and that only one Israeli plane was damaged.
The F-16 crashed in a field near the village of Harduf in northern Israel, showed television footage, and one of the pilots was injured, the army said.
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