Report: Downed Israeli Warplane - 10.02.2018
According to reports, on Saturday February 10th, an Iranian surveillance drone allegedly took off from Syrian territory in an attempt to infiltrate Israeli airspace and monitor the area. Israel perceived it to be a an Iranian aggression and as such, the Israeli army assigned a military attack-helicopter (Apache) to intercept and down the drone which later reportedly fell inside Israeli controlled areas. A spokesperson for the Israeli army said that the Iranian drone will be carefully studied as it considered to be very advanced.
Following the incident, Israel carried out a number of airstrikes targeting twelve Syrian and Iranian targets deep within Syrian territory, starting with the location from which the drone began its flight. Consequently, there is an unconfirmed number of casualties amongst the ranks of Syrian government forces and, perhaps, Hezbollah and Iranian forces as well. At the same time, Tiyas Military Airbase (or, T-4 airbase,) near Palmyra, was heavily damaged in the airstrikes prompting all flights from the base to cease while other bases were also attacked.
However, Syrian anti-aircraft batteries retaliated by launching a barrage of missiles towards the Israeli warplanes and ultimately resulted in the downing of an F-16 fighter jet. Moreover, the two pilots of the plane that crashed in northern Israel managed to safely eject themselves but were, nevertheless, wounded. In addition, unconfirmed sources claim that, aside from the downed F-16 fighter jet, at least three other Israeli warplanes were damaged but remains unclear. Nonetheless, Israeli authorities are investigating if the plane was hit or if the pilots bailed under the impression of being under imminent threat but no statements where yet made.
In an official statement, the Iranian government rejected Israel’s claim that it had intercepted an Iranian drone by instead saying that Iran’s involvement in the Syrian conflict is only to provide military advice to the Syrian army. Furthermore, the statement also included information over the use and activity of drones in the Syrian Golan Heights saying that they are used to combat the presence of ISIS in the area. Nonetheless, Hezbollah claimed that the downing of the F-16 marked a shift towards a “new strategic phase.”
To this some sources suggested, that during this incident, both Iran and Israel have engaged in their first ever physical confrontation and may lead to the situation escalating even further. Nonetheless, this is also the first time Assad’s regime actually commits to its threats of retaliation and may embolden the regime to continue repelling Israeli attacks. In this sense, Israel’s PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, maintained that the country would continue to strike Iranian targets in Syria as need to be to prevent Iran from militarily entrenching itself in the region.