An Israel Air Force F-16 was hit by a Syrian anti-Aircraft S-300 missile and crashed in Israeli territory Saturday around 6:00 AM, in a retaliatory attack that followed the infiltration of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace at 4:30 AM. Both the pilot, who was seriously injured, and the navigator ejected and taken to Maimonides Medical Center in Haifa, where the pilot is in stable condition.
The IAF then launched two more waves of attack on Iranian and Syrian anti-aircraft missile sites, in what its commander, Brigadier General Tomer Bar, described as “a complete operational success, including the thwarting of the UAV, attacking the sources of the fire, and in a subsequent response.”
“This was the largest attack against the Syrian air defense system since [the 1982] operation Peace of Galilee, an extensive attack under complex conditions,” the IAF chief said.
The IDF Spokesperson reported that as many as 25 anti-aircraft missiles were shot at the attacking Israeli warplanes – opening room for speculation that sending in the drone was a planned Iranian provocation, expecting that shooting this many rockets at the incoming Israeli planes would hit at least one.
Hezbollah issued a statement saying, “This is a new strategic era, the beginning of a new phase that would end the abandonment of Syrian airspace and land. Clearly, the significance of today’s developments is that all the old equations are null and void.”
Iranian President Rohani said on Saturday that “if certain countries think that by bombing neighboring countries it is possible to reach a solution, they are making a grave mistake.”
Israeli media speculated that the S-300 battery was manned by Russian soldiers, and that a return IAF attack destroyed the battery and the soldiers manning it.
The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement saying, “We are calling on all the involved parties to express restraint and avoid any actions, which may cause the situation’s aggravation. We consider it necessary to respect absolutely Syria’s and the region’s other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
At this point, Israel’s challenge is to persuade the Russians to order the Iranians to remove their bases—many of which have been destroyed on Saturday—from southern Syria. This would be a tricky thing to do, considering the value of the Shiite militias in Syria who serve as gun fodder for the Russian forces against the pro-Western rebels.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Liberman, who spent the day in emergency meetings in Tel Aviv, have a difficult road ahead, and the last thing they need at this point is direct confrontation with an angry Russian bear.
— החדשות (@NewsChannelIL)