Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, second in command of Israel's Air Force, said Saturday that the Israeli strike in Syria Saturday morning – after an Israeli F-16 was shot down – was "the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses" since the 1982 Lebanon War.
The Israeli military said it has struck 12 targets in Syria, which included four Syrian air-defense battaries and four Iranian sites after the F-16I crashed. The fighter jet was one of the planes sent to attack in Syria in response to the drone incursion earlier on Saturday.
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Bar also said the Iranian drone that was shot down by an Israeli helicopter was an advanced model with a low signature, and was captured. "It is a significant achievement to have such an advanced drone," he said, "and the first time we managed to put our hands on one."
According to Bar, "the drone control vehicle was moving and we succeeded in hitting it – also an impressive achievement given the conditions on the ground." Israel, he said, waited for the drone to enter its territory and "chose where to bring it down."
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In response to the incursion by the drone early Saturday, Israeli aircraft stuck Iranian targets in Syria, with a barrage of Syrian air-defense missiles bringing down an Israeli F-16 over Israel. Following the downing of the Israeli fighter jet, Israel said it carried out "large scale strikes" in Syria targeting Syrian air-defense batteries and four Iranian sites.
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.
"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," the military said.
Hezbollah said that an Israeli F-16 was shot down on Saturday marks the "start of a new strategic phase," in an official statement released on Saturday.