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Israel fighter jet crash ratchets up regional tensions

11 February 2018

Israel said later Saturday that it had attacked 12 additional targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets "that are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria".

"We waited for it to cross into our territory", said IAF chief of air staff Brigadier General Tomer Bar who stressed that it was important for Israel "to get our hands on the drone that was operated by the Iranians".

"Any new aggression will be met with a tough and serious response", the statement said.

Israel says the strikes destroyed the main command and control bunker of the Syrian military and marked its most devastating assault against Syria in decades.

The Israeli Prime Minister meanwhile told the Russian leader that Israel will defend itself against any "Iranian threats" coming from the territory of Syria.

"We will not allow that regime to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express goal of eradicating our state", Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Washington in December. Though Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, it has struck weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah - which is fighting alongside Syrian forces - nearly 100 times since 2012.

The assertions by Israel regarding the downed Iranian drone "are too ridiculous to be addressed", Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Saturday, as quoted by state-run Press TV.

Israel fighter jet crash ratchets up regional tensions
Israel fighter jet crash ratchets up regional tensions

"Such an aggressive policy practiced by Israel threatens stability in the region", said its Foreign Ministry in a statement. Syrian forces in turn responded with what the Israeli military called "substantial Syrian antiaircraft fire", which appears to have caused the crash of an Israeli fighter jet after its two-member crew ejected. Throughout the course of the Syrian conflict, Israel carried out a number of raids over the border against alleged Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah.

However, a former Israeli Air Force pilot, retired Lt. Col. Reuven Ben-Shalom, said the fierce Israeli response actually sent "very clear messages" to the other side, showing Iran how deep Israel's knowledge was of its activity in Syria. "I don't think anybody wants to escalate further". The IDF later released footage that it said showed the drone being brought down by an attack helicopter. It said the drones collect information on militant groups, including Islamic State, for the Syrian army, and said the drone was on a routine mission Saturday morning targeting Islamic State remnants.

"We are willing, prepared, and capable to exact a heavy price on anyone that attacks us".

Russian Federation backs the Assad regime and maintains a large military presence in the country.

Israel has long complained about the involvement of archenemy Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, in the Syria war. Until this weekend, occasional responses by Syria and Hezbollah against Israel had caused little damage. This past week, US warplanes bombed pro-government forces after they allegedly advanced on USA -backed forces in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

Iran's involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad in a almost 7-year-old civil war - including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat.

SIMON: The Israeli military has struck targets in Assad's areas before, but is this an escalation?

Israel fighter jet crash ratchets up regional tensions