Israeli fighter jets fired upon during Syria mission in clash with pro-Assad forces

Israeli fighter jets targeting sites inside Syria came under anti-aircraft missile fire but returned unharmed, says military
 Two Israeli Air Force F-16I jet fighters.





Israeli and pro-Assad forces have had their most serious clash since the beginning of the civil war in Syria after Israeli military jets on an operation over Syria were targeted by anti-aircraft missiles.

Israeli said none of the aircraft was hit, but one of the missiles was intercepted north of Jerusalem by an Israeli missile defence system.

The first indications of the exchange of fire came in the middle of the night with air raid sirens in the Israeli-occupied Jordan valley and reports of an explosion, which was later confirmed as the sound of one of the missiles being brought down by Israeli air defences.

In its own account of the incident the Syrian army said that four Israeli jets had entered Syrian airspace, and that one had been shot down and a second hit, a claim denied in the Israeli military statement.

Lebanese media and websites affiliated with Hezbollah, said the strike had killed Badie Hamya, a veteran of the Shia militant group, who was described as a “mujahedin leader”.

Hezbollah has played a prominent role in the fighting in Syria, with its troops joining Shia militias from Iraq to storm east Aleppo in December, and fighting alongside Russian special forces in Palmyra, which was retaken from Islamic State forces earlier this month.

The Syrian military said the Israeli strikes had targeted a military installation near Palymyra. Israel did not disclose the area it’s forces had targeted.

The incident was highly unusual in that it also saw the Israeli military break its customary silence over raids in Syria to release a statement to admit that its aircraft had been targeted while operating there.

“Overnight, March 17, IAF aircrafts [sic] targeted several targets in Syria,” said the statement. “Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and the IDF aerial defence systems intercepted one of the missiles. At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised.”

Israel has largely avoided entanglement in the war in Syria , but the statement confirmed what has long been an open secret in Israel in recent years, that Israeli jets have been targeting weapons convoys linked to the transport of Iranian-supplied arms to the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has been fighting on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Although Israel has operated with relative impunity in Syria, Russian-supplied anti-aircraft missile systems – including most recently S300 launchers – have long threatened to complicate Israel’s freedom of action.

Israeli military sources described the rocket brought down over Israel as one known to be in Syrian military arsenal – although not its most advanced – adding that it had been intercepted by its Arrow anti-missile system in its first confirmed use since being deployed in the late 1990s.

There has been growing concern in Israeli security circles at events turning the war in Syria in favour of the Assad regime, which is seen by some as benefiting Hezbollah in Lebanon, not least in its efforts to comprehensively rearm since the 2006 war.


guardian

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