‘Largest Air Strike Since First Lebanon War’
Israeli fighter planes conducted the largest strike on Syria since the first Lebanon War on Saturday morning hitting a mobile Iranian control center that sent a drone into Israeli airspace and then striking 12 targets in the country after Syrian Army air-defenses shot down an Israeli F-16i jet as it returned to Israel following the initial strike.
The incident began in the early hours of Saturday morning when an Iranian UAV was spotted on its way into Israeli airspace and was shot down by an Apache attack helicopter once it traversed over Israeli territory on the Golan Heights. In response to the Iranian violation of Israeli sovereignty, Israeli Air Force jets flew deep into Syria to hit the drone’s launch and control center near Palmyra some 160 kilometers north of Damascus.
As the jets flew home a barrage of Syrian anti-aircraft missiles was fired at the planes as they were over Israeli territory. The pilot of one of the planes decided to eject. It is unclear whether as a result of Syrian missiles locking on the plane or of direct damage. The two pilots parachuted to safety landing near Kibbutz Harduf in the Lower Galilee. One of the pilots suffered severe injuries as the result of what doctors described as penetration wounds, suggesting that he may have been hit by shrapnel from an anti-aircraft missile.
In response to the launch of a barrage of anti-aircraft missiles over Israeli territory, the IAF launched a second wave of strikes hitting Syrian anti-aircraft batteries, President Bashar Assad’s personal guard and Iranian targets
In an extensive briefing to military reporters following the incident, IAF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar said the Israeli attack was the largest since the First Lebanon War in 1982.
We attacked advanced long-range surface-to-air missiles, components of the [Syrian] air-defense system and various Iranian targets,” Bar said. “We will not allow Iran to become entrenched in Syria and we will do everything necessary to prevent that,” he added.
Bar said the incident was the first time that an Iranian drone, operated by Iranians, had crossed into Israeli territory. Bar described the drone as having a “low imprint” and said it was challenging to detect. He revealed that the IAF had destroyed the mobile control center as it was on the move inside the T4 airbase and while under fire from surface to air missiles. “The drone is in our hands and we will study it,” Bar added.
The IAF is prepared for any scenario and any eventuality while continuing to guard Israel’s skies and maintain its freedom of operation,” he continued. “The IAF’s aerial superiority has not been affected. We have scored an operational success vis-a-vis the Iranian challenge and those who operated the mission.”