An Israeli Defence Forces F-16 fighter jet crashed on Saturday while it was attacking Iranian targets in Syria, the IDF and Syrian military said.
According to the IDF, the F-16 crashed in Israel, and the pilots ejected safely. The IDF later said one pilot was hospitalized with serious injuries while the other was lightly injured. Syrian state television SANA reported that “several planes” had been shot down.
When asked to confirm reports that the F-16 was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said: “Early assessments. Not confirmed yet,” Reuters reported.
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) February 10, 2018
Syrian state television said the military was responding to air raids near Damascus.
“At dawn, the Zionist enemy carried out a new aggression against one of our military bases in the centre of the country,” SANA reported. “Our air defences repelled it and hit more than one plane.”
IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said the F-16 was targeting “Iranian control systems in Syria” that sent a drone into Israeli airspace.
IDF has targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the #UAV into Israeli airspace. Massive Syrian Anti-Air fire, one F16 crashed in Israel, pilots safe. #Iran is responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty. Event ongoing, more to follow.
— Jonathan Conricus (@LTCJonathan) February 10, 2018
Conricus said the military had confirmed “accurate hits of the UAV control facility,” a claim denied by the Syrian side.
“The IDF is striking numerous (12) Syrian and Iranian military targets in Syria, in response to Iranian aggression,” Conricus said.
The drone was identified and tracked by Israel’s aerial defense systems and later intercepted by an Apache helicopter around 4 a.m. near the town of Beit She’an in northern Israel, the IDF said. According to the spokesperson’s office, the drone was launched from Tiyas Military Airbase near Palmyra.
Israel Air Force Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar said the captured drone was an advanced, low-signature model never before captured, Haartez reported.
The IDF later released footage it said was of the drone and the strikes on the airbase.
תיעוד: הפלת המל״ט האיראני שחצה לשטח מדינת ישראל לפנות בוקר, ותקיפת קרון השליטה בעומק סוריה pic.twitter.com/1n8Fj8fxS7
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) February 10, 2018
Israeli strikes in Syria
Israel said it targeted “three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria” on Saturday.
The attack prompted Syria to fire anti-aircraft missiles, triggering alarms in the Golan Heights and upper Galilee.
On Wednesday the Syrian army said it intercepted Israeli missiles fired at military positions outside Damascus.
Israel regularly attacks Iranian and Hezbollah targets inside Syria, and is believed to be behind airstrikes on several Syrian sites since the country’s civil war began. Tel Aviv rarely confirms reported airstrikes in Syria.
“The IDF will act determinately against such severe violations of Israeli sovereignty by Iran and Syria and will continue to act as necessary. The IDF is ready for various scenarios and will continue to act according to situation assessments,” the spokesperson’s office said on Saturday.
This is a developing story and will be updated.