Israel Strikes Iranian Targets in Syria, Loses Jet

February 13, 2018

On February 10, tensions between two regional rivals escalated after an Israeli combat helicopter reportedly intercepted an Iranian drone that crossed the Syria-Israel border. IDF spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus told CNN that Israel tracked the unmanned craft from its launch from the Iranian T-4 command center near Palmyra, Syria. He said it was the first time an Iranian drone had crossed into Israeli territory since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. The drone was reportedly modeled off an American one that was shot down over Iran in 2011.

 

Eight Israeli jets attacked Iranian targets in Syria about an hour later at 5:34 AM, according to the Israeli military. Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles and hit one of the jets, forcing the pilot and navigator to eject from the F-16. They landed in Israeli territory and survived the crash. But one was severely injured. Israel responded with a large-scale airstrike on 12 targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.

Israeli air force Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar said it was the “most significant attack” of its kind against Syria since the 1982 Lebanon war. The Jerusalem Post reported that it was the first time Israel lost an aircraft in combat since 2006, when a Hezbollah rocket downed a helicopter over Lebanon. But no Israeli jet has been downed by enemy fire since 1982. Israel has warned that it will “act with determination to prevent any breach” of its sovereignty.

Iran denied that one of its drones crossed into Israeli airspace. “Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Ghassemi said. He maintained that Iran “only has an advisory presence” in Syria. The government has rejected claims that Revolutionary Guards have played a combat role there.

Since the Syrian war began, Israel has attacked weapons stores and other targets in Syria to prevent Iran from delivering advanced missiles to Hezbollah. But strikes on Iranian targets are rare. In 2015, Israel reportedly killed Mohammad Ali Allah-Dadi, a Revolutionary Guards general, in an airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights. As Syrian President Bashar al Assad has consolidated control of territory that had been taken by opposition groups or ISIS, the threat of other conflicts, especially between Hezbollah or Iran and Israel, has increased. The following are statements from Iran, Israel, Syria, the United States, and Russia on the latest confrontation.

 

Iran

 

Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani

 

“There is an important point in the recent events and in targeting an Israeli fighter jet: the Syrian army showed to the Zionists that the era of hit-and-run has ended.”

“It is an irrational claim, as no F16 fighter takes off to target a drone.”

“We play an advisory role in Syria.”

—Feb. 11, 2018, in an interview with Fars News Agency

 

Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hossein Salami

“We don’t confirm any news by Israel. If the Syrians confirm, we will confirm too; because the Israelis are liars.”

“We have no military presence in Syria, and we are present in Syria for an advisory role and the presence of the Syrian army to defend their territories is adequate.”

—Feb. 10, 2018, to reporters

 

Advisor to the Supreme Leader on International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati

 

“If the Zionist regime wants to make aggression against Syria or any other state's airspace, the regional countries are entitled to use their space and the Syrian government and nation was entitled to respond to the Zionist regime's aggression to make them regret.”

“Iran's presence in Syria is based on an agreement between Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic.”

—Feb. 12, 2018, to reporters

 

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Ghassemi

“As a sovereign state, the Syrian government and nation have the legitimate right to defend their territorial integrity against any foreign invasion.”

Israel’s claims about an Iranian drone are “too ridiculous to be taken seriously.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran only has an advisory presence in Syria at the request of the legitimate and legal government of Syria.”

—Feb. 10, 2018, in a statement

 

 

Israel

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

"I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel. This morning Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel. And this demonstrates that our warnings were 100% correct. Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security."

“We will continue to defend ourselves with determination against any attack against us and against any attempt by Iran to establish a military presence against us in Syria or anywhere else."

“I reiterated to him [Russian President Vladimir Putin] our right and our duty to defend ourselves against aggression against us from Syria territory. We agreed the security coordination between our armies will continue.”

“I spoke to the American secretary of state about the developments of the last 24 hours and additional developments in the region.”

—Feb. 10, 2018, during a press conference and in a statement

 

"A few minutes ago I spoke with the navigator and was pleased to hear that he is standing up, with all that entails. I was also pleased to hear that there has been an improvement in the condition of the pilot. We wish both of them a quick and full recovery. We salute our pilots, soldiers and commanders, especially the Chief-of-Staff. They are guarding the State of Israel and we are proud of them.

Yesterday we dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces. We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit; we will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us. This has been our policy and it will remain our policy.

I would also like to say that I am proud of you, the citizens of Israel. Yesterday we again proved that in moments of crisis we know how to come together and rebuff our enemies and guard our country."

—Feb. 11, 2018, during a cabinet meeting

 

Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus

“The Syrians and the Iranians, from our point of view, are playing with fire. The Syrians are playing with fire when they allow the Iranians to attack Israel from their soil. We are willing, prepared, and capable to exact a heavy price on anyone that attacks us. However, we are not looking to escalate the situation.”

—Feb. 10, 2018, in a statement

 

 

Syria

 

Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sussan

“Have full confidence the aggressor will be greatly surprised, because it thought this war - this war of attrition Syria has been exposed to for years - had made it incapable of confronting attacks.”

“God willing, they will see more surprises whenever they try to attack Syria.”

—Feb. 13, 2018, according to Reuters

 

Member of Parliament Feras Shehabi

The downing of the Israeli jet marks a “major shift in the balance of power in favor of Syria and the axis of resistance.”

“Israelis must realize they no longer have superiority in the skies or on the ground.”

—Feb. 10, 2018, according to Voice of America

 

The United States

 

White House Press Secretary

Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria. We call on Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace.

—Feb. 10, 2018, in a statement

 

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert

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.

Iran's calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the region -- from Yemen to Lebanon -- at risk. The U.S. continues to push back on the totality of Iran's malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability.

—Feb. 10, 2018, in a statement

 

Department of Defense Spokesperson Adrian Rankine-Galloway

“The Department of Defense did not participate in this military operation.”

“Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people.”

“We share the concerns of many throughout the region that Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten international peace and security, and we seek greater international resolve in countering Iran’s malign activities.”

—Feb. 10, 2018, in a statement

 

Russia

 

Foreign Ministry

“According to incoming information, Israeli aircraft delivered several missile strikes at targets in Syria, including those at the border of the southwestern de-escalation zone, in the night and morning of February 10. Syrian losses and material damage are being specified. Reports say one Israeli military aircraft was shot down in the area of the Golan Heights.

“Moscow is gravely concerned over the latest developments and the attacks on Syria. A matter of special concern is the danger of a new escalation of tension within and around the de-escalation zones that have become an important factor in reducing the violence on Syrian soil. It will be recalled that the Syrian governmental forces have been honouring all existing agreements designed to ensure the stable functioning of the de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria.

“We are insistently calling on all parties involved to display restraint and avoid any actions capable of leading to an even greater complication of the situation. We consider it necessary that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries in the region be respected unconditionally. Creating threats to life and security of Russian service personnel, who are in the Syrian Arab Republic at the invitation of its legitimate government in order to assist the fight against terrorists, is absolutely unacceptable.”

—Feb. 10, 2018, in a statement