Photo Credit: Ofer Zidon / Flash 90

Israeli aerial defenses are being increased in the northern sector of the country this weekend following a skirmish between Israeli fighter jets and Syrian anti-aircraft military forces.

Israel carried out its largest attack since 1982 against four high-value Iranian targets and eight Syrian military targets in response to an infiltration into Israel by an Iranian military stealth drone. Among the Syrian sites that were attacked was the military’s main command and control bunker.

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But Israeli fighter pilots encountered massive anti-aircraft missile fire as they were carrying out their attack. An Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down by an SA-5 missile launched from an S-300 anti-aircraft battery, forcing the two pilots to eject over Israeli territory, both with injuries. The navigator has already been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. The pilot is still hospitalized at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where he is listed in fair but stable condition following emergency surgery for multiple wounds.

The skirmish prompted Israel’s Air Force to reinforce air defenses in northern Israel.

Incoming IDF Operations Division chief Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Assur – who is leaving the Northern Command’s 210th Bashan Division – said Saturday’s clash proved the truth of Israel’s longtime claims: “Hezbollah and Iran are trying to entrench themselves in the area, as can be seen from this past Saturday… [But we] sent a clear message to our enemies – We’re determined to defend our sovereignty and respond with force and wisdom to any threat.”

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said Sunday in an interview with Israel public radio that it will take the Iranians “some time to digest, understand and ask how Israel knew how to hit those sites. These were concealed sites and we have intelligence agencies and the ability to know everything that is going on there, and yesterday we proved that.”

Assur’s incoming replacement, IDF Brig.-Gen. Amit Fischer said the IDF must now prepare itself operationally and on the intelligence level to meet the growing threat on Israel’s doorstep – “the return of the Syrian military and its nation, Iranian forces, Hezbollah and others.

“The additional mission . . . is the preparation of the division – especially its many reserve units – for the ultimate test, the test of war.”

Fischer said that by striking the four key Iranian sites that were hit in Saturday’s attack – and eight other Syrian sites as well – Israel had sent a clear message to Tehran that the Jewish State will not tolerate any Iranian military presence in its backyard.

Saturday’s attack by the Israel Air Force was the most comprehensive air strike against Syria since 1982.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.