An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) AH-64 Apache combat helicopter shot down an Iranian drone launched from Syria that infiltrated the country’s airspace early Saturday.
“A combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel,” the Israeli military said in a statement. The statement added that the drone was identified quickly and was “under surveillance until the interception”.
Israel called the intrusion a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty” and added that Iran would be held responsible for its outcome, marking a dramatic escalation in tensions along its northern border. Israel has long complained about the involvement of archenemy Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, in the Syria war.
Israel also launched “large-scale attack” on targets in Syria in response to the airspace violation. The military said it struck 12 targets including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria.
This targets also included the drone’s launch site, the Tiyas Military Airbase near Palmyra. The strike reportedly targeted a facility housing the unmanned aircraft’s Iranian operators.
Israel has shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria. The targeting of Iranian sites in response, however, mark an escalation in the Israeli retaliation. The military confirmed that the initial target in Syria — the unmanned aircraft’s launch components — was successfully destroyed. Israel says it has the Iranian drone in its possession.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter jets conducting airstrikes in Syria faced massive anti-aircraft fire that forced one of the jets to crash in northern Israel. One pilot of the aircraft was seriously wounded and the other lightly.
Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.
Red alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Golan Heights due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.
Later, Syria state TV said its air defenses responded to new Israeli raids near the capital Damascus.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the incident.