Donna Abu-Nasr and Gwen Ackerman – February 10, 2018
Israel launched attacks on Iranian and Syrian positions after it said Iran sent a military drone into its airspace Saturday, raising the prospect of further escalation over the Islamic Republic’s growing presence in Syria.
Israel struck 12 targets in Syria, including four Iranian targets, in a “large-scale attack” after the drone infiltration, the Israel Defense Forces said. An F-16 fighter plane crashed in northern Israel after coming under fire from Syrian anti-aircraft missiles, and the pilots were hospitalized with moderate to severe injuries.
Saturday’s confrontation, the most serious between the sides since the Syrian civil war began, comes amid Israeli warnings that it won’t let Syria become an Iranian base and will intercept weapons shipments bound for Iran-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Iran and allied militias have fought alongside government troops against rebels and Islamist factions in the seven-year-old Syrian war.
“The question is whether the Iranians will respond or lower the fire at this stage,” said Ephraim Kam, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “My feeling is that they don’t have an interest in escalation.”