Israel bombed Iranian and Syrian military forces in Syrian territory Saturday, risking escalation an already heated conflict.
After an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace early Saturday, Israel responded by shooting down the drone and then bombing the launch site in Syria. One of the F-16 fighters was brought down in Israel by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile, forcing both pilots to eject. Both were injured, one critically. Israel then launched a “large-scale operation” against a dozen Syrian and Iranian military sites, including Syria’s air defense systems, according to Reuters.
Saturday’s incident risks drawing Israel into the bloody, 7-year-old Syrian civil war. Iran’s involvement in the conflict, specifically the regular deployment of Iranian and Iran-backed forces in support of the Syrian regime and President Bashar al-Assad near the Israeli border, is already has Israel on edge.
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Iran called Israel’s description of Saturday’s chain of events “ridiculous,” and Syria said the attack on the military sites constituted a clear act of “Israeli aggression.”
“Syria and Iran are playing with fire,” Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Jonathan Conricus said in response. Russia, a staunch proponent of the Assad regime, expressed concern, encouraging both sides to exercise restraint.
Despite rising tension and hostile rhetoric, both Israel and Syria signaled that neither is interest in war, but situations such as this often make that quite difficult.
The incident Saturday reportedly marks the first Israeli strike on the Iranian military and the first, according to retired Gen. Amos Yadlin, and the first time Syria and Israel have engaged one another on the battlefield since the 80s. The downed F-16 is said to be the first Israeli military aircraft lost in decades.
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