Israel Has Full Support in Defending Itself Following Iran Drone Incursion

BC-AP News Digest 3:15

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet was hit and went down Saturday in northern Israel after coming under "massive anti-aircraft fire" from Syrian forces, according to the Israeli army. "We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of engagement have not changed in any way".

On the other hand Tel Aviv based Haaretz quoted military sources saying that Israeli army chose to shoot down Iranian drone over its territory in an attempt to prove Tehran was operating in Syria against Israel.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said that at least six Syrian troops and allied militia members were killed in the Israeli air strikes.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Saturday's incident marked the most "blatant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty" yet.

Israel is talking tough after a series of air raids in Syria during the weekend.

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin praised the nation's security forces and spoke to the injured pilot.

Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Conricus said it was intercepted well inside Israeli territory over the city of Beit Shean, near the Jordanian border. Israel says the strikes were launched after it shot down an infiltrating Iranian drone.

For now, he added, the Israeli government appears to be dealing with Iran's actions in Syria "on a case-by-case basis".

David Ivry, a former Israeli Air Force chief, told Reuters he believed it was the first time an Israeli F-16 was brought down since Israel began using the jets in the 1980s.

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

Russian Federation and Iran back President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States and Turkey support differing rebel groups fighting the government.

Sources in Damascus said there were casualties among Syrian forces.

Officials have been warning of Iranian entrenchment on the Golan Heights, an area of key strategic importance for the Jewish state, stressing that it is a red line for Jerusalem.

The statement also said the drones -one of which Israel claims to have shot down- were being used against Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement.

Israel's Ambassador Danny Danon called on the Security Council "to condemn this risky act and to put an immediate end to Iranian provocations".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 10 accused Iran of violating his country's sovereignty and said Israel would do "whatever is necessary" to protect its sovereignty.

In a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Netanyahu affirmed Israel's right to defend itself but vowed to continue cooperating with the Kremlin to avoid accidental clashes with Russian troops in Syria.

The Kremlin said Putin had stressed the necessity to "avoid any measure that could lead to a risky escalation".

"The United States is deeply concerned about today's escalation of violence over Israel's border and strongly supports Israel's sovereign right to defend itself", U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

He had spoken with the Russian leader about Israel's escalating tensions in the region during his recent Moscow trip, but he was not encouraged by Putin's lack of resolve to put any restraints on Iran. Its occupation of a swathe of the Golan Heights, which it seized during the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed, has never been recognized by the worldwide community.

Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syria conflict, but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it calls deliveries of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.



Other news