An Israeli F-16 was downed Saturday morning after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria into Israeli territory. According to the Israeli army, Syrian anti-aircraft missiles targeted the jet after Israel responded to the infiltration of the drone with a strike in Syria.
The two F-16 pilots ejected as the plane went down in northern Israel. The pilots were taken to the hospital in stable condition. One of the pilots is in serious condition. Following the downing of the jet Israel responded with a fresh "large-scale strike" in Syria.
The pro-Assad military alliance, which includes Iran and Hezbollah, warned Israel on Saturday that any new act of what it called "terrorism" will be met with a "severe and serious response." Russia called on sides to exercise restraint, adding that any threat to the safety of Russian servicemen are "unacceptable."
Early Saturday an Iranian drone was intercepted in Israeli airspace. IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said Israel "identified an Iranian drone drone which took off from Syrian territory. The drone was identified by IAF systems and was downed by an IAF helicopter. The Iranian drone fell in our territory and is in our possession."
In response, the Israeli military struck targets in Syria. Manelis said the targets included the trailer from which "the Iranians launched the drone," adding that, "This was a surgical action deep in Syria, target destroyed."
Manelis confirmed that sirens were activated but said civilians were not in danger.
"This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory," Manelis said "Iran is dragging the region into a situation in which it doesn't know how it will end. We are prepared for a variety of incidents...whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price."
Rocket sirens sounded for a second time following the downing of the jet. Syrian state TV reported explosions in the Damascus area, calling them new "Israeli aggression."
Shortly afterwards, the Israeli military said it has carried out a fresh 'large-scale strike' against 12 Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. The targets included four Syrian air-defense batteries and four Iranian targets, the military said.
Landings and departures were temporarily halted at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, located near the central city of Tel Aviv.
An Israeli military spokesman said that Syria and Iran are "playing with fire" and will pay a heavy price. The Prime Minister Office has instructed cabinet ministers not to speak publicly about the events on the northern border.
Opposition sources in Damascus said that an Israeli strike targeted a control tower of a Syrian military airfield near Damascus, and a weapons depot near the Syrian capital.
According to official Israeli sources, since the incidents began Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been holding security consultations and approving the necessary actions in real-time. Members of the Israeli security cabinet have been briefed on the details.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will hold a special security assessment meeting shortly with the IDF chief of staff and senior army and security officials.
Syrian television claimed Saturday morning more than one Israeli aircraft was hit by Syria's defense systems.
Due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, says the army, rocket sirens sounded in multiple areas of northern Israel, first in the northern Israeli town of Beit She’an and later in the surrounding areas and Golan Heights.