Israel fighter jet crash ratchets up regional tensions

Posted February 11, 2018

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.

Prime Minister Netanyahu made a statement this morning about the incursion and Israel's response.

That prompted the Israelis to then launch a counterattack, which they called a large-scale attack, hitting 12 military sites.

Israel has long maintained air superiority in the region, mounting air strikes in Syria on a regular basis, targeting suspected weapons shipments to Hezbollah.

Many in Israel feared not only that Iran and its allies would entrench themselves near the Israeli border but that Hezbollah had been using the Syrian fighting as a training and that Iran might help the militia upgrade to the use of precision-guided missiles.

Netanyahu also announces that he spoke with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson following the escalation of tensions.

Air raid sirens sounded in the early morning of the Jewish sabbath in northern Israel and flights at Tel Aviv's global airport were briefly halted. Qasemi went on to say, "Iran only provides military advice to Syria based on the request of the country's legitimate government".

"Such an aggressive policy practiced by Israel threatens stability in the region", said its Foreign Ministry in a statement.

"They discussed the situation around the actions of the Israeli air force, which carried our missile strikes on targets in Syria", Interfax quoted the Kremlin as saying. "I don't think anybody wants to escalate further". 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.

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"The fact that a drone like this is identified, tracked and intercepted so smoothly by the Israeli air force demonstrates our capabilities, demonstrates our resolve not to allow the breach of Israeli sovereignty", he said.

"The Secretary-General stresses once again that all concerned in Syria and the region have a responsibility and must abide by worldwide law and relevant Security Council resolutions".

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.

Netanyahu has been seeking to persuade Russian Federation to limit Iran's presence near Israeli territory and to stop it from entrenching itself militarily in Syria .

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.

Israel has shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria. The military confirmed that the initial target in Syria - the unmanned aircraft's launch components - was successfully destroyed and released grainy footage of the strike.

Another sign that today's incident was not happenstance is the statement by Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese arm, which chose to respond with aggressive language: "The shooting down of the plane is the beginning of a new strategic stage that will restrict Israel's exploitation of Syrian airspace".

Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the UN, speaks at the General Assembly, December 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters.

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