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

UN chief calls for de-escalation in Syria after Israeli strikes

UN chief calls for de-escalation in Syria after Israeli strikes

"Israel wants peace but we will continue to defend ourselves with determination against any attack on us and against any attempt by Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria or anywhere else", concluded Netanyahu.

Israel launched air raids in Syria yesterday after one of its fighter jets crashed while under Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

A spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council said Syria's response was "a clear warning to Israel".

Israel has said it will not accept a permanent military presence by Iran and its Shiite allies in Syria, especially near the Israeli border.

"Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel".

It said its reprisals after the exchange were "large-scale" raids.

Iran, for its part, denounced Israeli "lies" and said Syria had the right to "legitimate self-defense" in response to air strikes launched by Israel.

In response to the provocation, Israel attacked the drone's command center. One pilot was seriously wounded and the other lightly.

According to the Israeli military, the confrontation began with a drone entering its airspace.

In a statement quoted by the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, Brigadier General Tomer Bar, a senior Israel Air Force officer, said the Israeli aircraft was downed by a surface-to-air missile but he did not specify. Iran rejected the Israeli version of events as "ridiculous". The military said its planes faced massive anti-aircraft fire from Syria that forced two pilots to abandon an F-16 jet that crashed in northern Israel. Police said the F16 crashed in the Jezreel valley in northern Israel. "We don't know yet if it's an SA-5 or SA-17, but it's a Syrian anti-aircraft missile", he said.

Both aircrew managed to eject and landed in Israel.

"Iran is responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty", Conricus said on Twitter.

Israeli media reported that the Iranian military drone was shot down near Beit Shean, close to the border with Jordan, after flying for about 90 seconds in Israeli airspace.

He also threatened the United States, saying that his country had the military power to destroy all American bases in the region.

"Our air defences repelled it and hit more than one plane".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the seven-year civil war, said the earlier Israeli raids had targeted several military bases in the east of the central province of Homs.

By directly sending the drone into Israel on a military mission, Conricus said Iran was "playing with fire". He said while Israel had no interest in further escalation it was prepared to "extract a heavy price" for such aggression. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, from Netanyahu's Likud Party, said that after Israel's repeated warnings on Iran in Syria - what he called a "yellow card" for the Islamic Republic - Saturday's strike represented a "red card".

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

Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah - which is backed by Tehran - all support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war.

The latest incident marks the heightening of tension between Israel and Syria.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war and has occupied it since, annexing the territory in 1981 in a move not recognised internationally.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman convened the top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv for long hours of emergency consultations throughout the Jewish Sabbath to discuss their next steps. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel.

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