Israel’s minister of intelligence says strikes on key Iranian sites in Syria sent a clear message to Tehran that Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military foothold on its doorstep.

Israel Katz said yesterday it would take the Iranians time to “digest, understand and ask how Israel knew how to hit those sites”.

After shooting down an Iranian drone that infiltrated its airspace, Israel launched a widespread ­offensive in Syria. An Israeli F-16 jet crashed after it came under fire.

The Israeli military said it had hit four Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites, causing significant damage. Israel recently issued several warnings about the increased Iranian involvement along its borders with Syria and Lebanon.

Israel also said it had destroyed the Syrian military’s main command and control bunker in its most devastating assault there in decades.

Following the most serious confrontation between arch foes Israel and Iran since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to prevent Tehran establishing a threatening military presence in the Arab state.

Washington backed Israel and blamed Iran for the escalation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “an immediate and unconditional de-escalation of violence” in Syria, his spokesman said.

It was the first time Israel has acknowledged targeting what it identified as Iranian positions in Syria since the conflict started.

Iran denounced Israeli “lies” and said Syria had the right to self-defence in response to the strikes.

Separately, Iran issued a statement with Syria’s other main allies — Russia and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — denying Israel’s drone allegations.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged “restraint” by all parties, adding it was “unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian soldiers” in Syria.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus warned that Syria and Iran were “playing with fire”, but stressed that his country was not seeking an escalation. “This is the most blatant and severe Iranian violation of Israeli sovereignty” in recent years, he said.

Israel said its reprisals were “large-scale” raids on Syrian air defence systems and Iranian targets. “Twelve targets, including three aerial defence batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria were attacked,” a military statement said.

The two crew from the crashed F-16 were alive after ejecting, although one was severely wounded, the military said. They landed inside Israel and were taken to hospital.

Israel said the confrontation began with the drone entering its airspace before being intercepted by a helicopter. Mr Conricus said it was intercepted well inside Israel, north of the city of Beit Shean near the border with Jordan.

He did not say whether the drone was armed, but alleged it “was on a military mission sent by Iranian military forces” from an “Iranian base” in the Palmyra area.

Eight Israeli aircraft then “targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the UAV” and confirmed hits, Mr Conricus said.

He said the aircraft met “massive Syrian anti-air fire”, and the F-16 came down in northern Israel’s Jezreel valley.

Damascus said its air defences repelled two Israeli raids on its bases in central Syria, hitting more than one warplane during the first.

 

Read the full article at The Australian.

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