Published: Sun, February 11, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Israel, Iran Lurch Toward Showdown As Border Region Boils

Israel, Iran Lurch Toward Showdown As Border Region Boils

Israel is swiftly stepping up its air raids in Syria targeting Iranian interests in a sharp escalation of regional tensions, after one of its F-16 fighters was downed on Saturday (10 February).

Israel would not confirm whether its aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.

The pro-Assad military alliance said Israel had attacked a drone base in central Syria but denied any of its drones had entered Israeli airspace.

Hours before leaving on Saturday, Mr. Tillerson spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, assuring him that the USA supports Israel's right to defend itself, Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said.

The incident, which triggered sirens in the northern Golan Heights, is believed to be Israel's most significant involvement in Syria since the war began there some seven years ago.

Netanyahu says Saturday that he informed Putin of Israel's intention to continue defending itself against any aggression and to prevent Iran from establishing a presence "in Syria or anywhere else".

A senior official stated this evening that "according to estimates, which are based, among other things, on the statements made by senior Iranian regime officials in the last 24 hours, Iran is determined to continue its attempts to entrench itself in Syria", according to Israel's Arutz 7.

The Russian foreign ministry called for "restraint" from all parties.

"The Israeli entity is now convinced it is unable to bear the consequences of a confrontation", said Ghassan Mohammad, an analyst on the Syrian Ikhbariyah news channel.

"I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran's military entrenchment in Syria".

By directly sending the drone into Israel on a military mission, Conricus said Iran was "playing with fire".

He also noted that after decades during which Israeli warplanes were operating unmolested in Syria's airspace, the downing of one plane was to be expected, statistically.

Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today's aggression.

That sparked a full day of devastating Israeli aerial assaults on Iranian and Syrian military installations.

"The Iranians are crossing red lines", Israel Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz said.

Conricus said it was intercepted well inside Israeli territory over the city of Beit Shean, near the Jordanian border. The Israeli military confirmed that one F-16 had gone down in northern Israel, and that its two pilots had ejected and had been located and transferred to hospital.

Israel has shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria.

The Israeli pilots of the crashed F16 were alive, although one was severely wounded, the military said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the latest developments in the region, APA reports quoting The Washington Post. "Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel", Netanyahu said.

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