JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will do “whatever is necessary” to protect itself against aggression from Iran and Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said hours after an Iranian drone infiltration from Syria.
Israel’s Air Force downed the Iranian drone in airspace over northern Israel on Saturday morning, and followed the infiltration by attacking 12 targets in Syria, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria, the IDF said in a statement.
“This morning Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty,” Netanyahu said in his statement issued Saturday night.
“I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel,” Netanyahu said, adding: “And this demonstrates that our warnings were 100 percent correct.”
About two dozen sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel beginning early Saturday morning due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
An Israeli F-16 jet targeted by Syrian anti-aircraft fire crashed in Israeli territory, leading the two pilots to eject from the aircraft. One of the pilots was seriously injured, the IDF said.
“The Syrians and the Iranians, from our point of view, are playing with fire. The Syrians are playing with fire when they allow the Iranians to attack Israel from their soil. We are willing, prepared, and capable to exact a heavy price on anyone that attacks us. However, we are not looking to escalate the situation,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in an IDF statement.
“The IDF sees the Iranian attack and the Syrian response as severe violations of Israeli sovereignty. The IDF will continue to act against any attempt to infiltrate Israeli airspace and will act with determination to prevent any breach of Israeli sovereignty,” the statement said.
The United States “strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement issued Saturday afternoon.
Nauert said the United States is “deeply concerned about today’s escalation of violence over Israel’s border.”
“Iran’s calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the region — from Yemen to Lebanon — at risk. The U.S. continues to push back on the totality of Iran’s malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability,” the statement also said.
Netanyahu said on Saturday night that he spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and had a separate conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu, who met in Moscow last week with Putin, said the leaders agreed to continue the military coordination between their two countries with respect to Syria.
Netanyahu reportedly said that he told Putin that it is “our right and duty to defend ourselves against attacks from Syria.”
Flights leaving from and arriving to Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv were delayed for an hour on Saturday morning due to the disturbances.
The Syrian military on Wednesday accused Israel of firing on several military targets outside of Damascus. Some Israeli missiles reportedly hit ammunition depots near the Center for Scientific Research in the Jamaraya region.