Syria border region boils as Israel, Iran clash

Occupied Jerusalem: The Israeli regime’s aircraft reportedly struck 12 Syrian and Iranian targets inside Syria on Saturday after an Israeli fighter jet crashed under fire from Syrian regime air defences. Eight of the Syrian regime targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, according to the regime in Tel Aviv.

The confrontation was the most serious between arch foes Israel and Iran since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011.

The Israeli pilots of the crashed F16 were reported alive, although one was severely wounded.

It is the first time the Israeli regime has lost an aircraft in combat since 2006 when an Israeli helicopter was shot down over Lebanon by a Hezbollah rocket. All five crew on board — including a female flight mechanic — were killed in the 2006 incident.

The Syrian regime’s news agency, SANA, said air defences had responded to a “new Israeli aggression”. On its part, the regime in Tel Aviv called the new escalation “severe violation of Israeli sovereignty”.

The regime in Tel Aviv claimed its raids came after it intercepted what it said was an Iranian drone entering its airspace from Syria. It marked the first time Tel Aviv publicly acknowledged attacking what it identified as “Iranian targets” in Syria since the war began.

The Israeli regime’s military issued a warning to Tehran, saying it was responsible for the drone that entered Israel, which it labelled an “attack”. The deputy head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps declined to comment on reports of the drone on Saturday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Brigadier General Hussain Salami “did not comment on the reports about the Iranian drone when asked by journalists, but he said that Iran could destroy all American military bases in the region and create a hell for the Zionist regime (Israel),” according to Tasnim.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the first round targeted in the central desert area where Syrian regime troops and their Iranian-backed allies including Hezbollah are known to maintain bases. It cited unconfirmed reports of casualties among Syrian regime forces and allied militiamen.

The Britain-based Observatory, which monitors the Syria war through a network of activists on the ground, said the second round targeted outposts in the southwestern suburbs of Damascus.

The current violence is the first direct engagement between Iran and Israel, said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. “Before it was done through proxies,” for example by the Syrian regime or the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, he said.

“The risk is a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran that will encompass Syria and Lebanon,” Nader added.

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