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 Israeli F-16 Shot Down
 Posted: Feb 11 2018, 09:48 AM

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Benjamin Netanyahu blames Iran and Syria after jet shot down, says Israel will do 'whatever necessary'

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Photo: The remains of the F-16 Israeli war plane are seen near the Israeli village of Harduf. (Reuters: Ronen Zvulun)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will do "whatever is necessary" to defend itself against aggression, after Syrian anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid in Syria.

The Israeli military said the F-16 jet crashed after it came under fire during a mission to strike Iranian drone installations in Syria, after earlier shooting down an Iranian drone reportedly flying over Israeli territory.

The two pilots managed to eject before the crash. One was seriously wounded and the other suffered minor injuries.

Israel then launched a second and more intensive air raid inside Syria, hitting what it said were 12 Iranian and Syrian military targets, including three aerial defence batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he held Iran and Syria responsible for the day's aggression.

"This morning Iran brazenly violated Israel's sovereignty," Mr Netanyahu said in a Facebook post.

"They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel. And this demonstrates that our warnings were 100 per cent correct.

"We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security."

Mr Netanyahu said he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin and both agreed to continue coordination between the two states' armies.

Israel has been striking at weapons stores and other facilities in Syria for the past several years, trying to disrupt Iranian weapons being transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Earlier, a military spokesman said Israel did not seek an escalation in the region.

"We are willing, prepared and capable to exact a heavy price from anyone that attacks us, however we are not looking to escalate the situation," a military spokesman said.

"This was a defensive effort triggered by an Iranian act of aggression and we are defending our airspace our sovereignty and civilians."

But the military alliance fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Israeli claims that a drone entered Israeli airspace were a "lie", adding Israel would witness a "severe and serious" response to its "terrorism" from now on.

"Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran's involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous ... Iran only provides military advice to Syria," state television quoted Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.

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Photo: The burning wreckage was recorded moments after crashing. (AP: Yehunda Pinto)

Iranian and Iran-backed forces have established a major foothold in Syria while fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran's expanding clout during Syria's nearly seven-year-long war, including deployments of Iran-backed forces near the Golan frontier, has raised alarm in Israel, which has said it would act against any threat from its regional arch-enemy Tehran.

The clashes marked a dangerous new confrontation between the international powers caught up in Syria's war.

Iranian and Iran-backed Shiite forces, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, have deployed widely in support of Mr Assad.

Iran's military chief warned Israel last October against breaching Syrian airspace and territory.

Israel's air force has targeted Syrian military and Hezbollah targets in Syria on an almost regular basis, but its attacks yesterday appeared to be the most intense yet.

Referring to the downed Israeli F-16, an official in the pro-Assad alliance said a "message" had been delivered to Israel.

"I do not believe matters will develop to a regional war," the official said.

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Photo: Israeli security forces examine the wreckage of the crashed F-16. (Reuters: Ronen Zvulun)

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it was seriously concerned by the latest developments, and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

"It is necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries in the region."

In Washington, President Donald Trump's administration has backed Israel's hawkish stance on Iran, and declared containing Tehran's influence an objective of its Syria policy.

On a visit to Israel last month, US Vice-President Mike Pence called Iran the world's "leading state sponsor of terror".

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also expected to visit the region in the coming week to discuss the crisis in Syria and other issues, and is scheduled to visit Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and other countries.

Israel said one of its attack helicopters had shot down an Iranian drone at around 4:30am on Saturday (local time) that had come from Syrian into Israel.

"In response, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) targeted Iranian targets in Syria," the military said.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said a "substantial" number of Israeli warplanes on the mission had come under "massive Syrian anti-air fire", and only one Israeli jet was harmed.

The F-16 came down in a field near the northern Israeli village of Harduf, television footage showed, and one of the pilots was injured as they ejected, the military said.

David Ivry, a former Israeli Air Force chief, told Reuters he believed it was the first time an Israeli F-16 was brought down since Israel began using the jets in the 1980s.

"We don't know if the pilots ejected because of the [Syrian] fire," Lieutenant Colonel Conricus said.

It was also unclear at what stage of the mission they ejected, he said, "but it is of extreme concern to us if they were shot down".

In Israel, uniformed military personnel could be seen gathered around the burnt and tangled metal in Harduf by mid-morning, with what appeared to be white foam on the surrounding grass. Others knelt in the grass, inspecting pieces of the jet.

Rocket alert sirens sounded in the Israeli-held Golan Heights and in northern Israel and there were no reports of casualties.

Meanwhile, a Turkish military helicopter crashed in northern Syria on Saturday (local time), bringing the number of soldier's killed in Ankara's offensive on Syrian Kurdish militia there to seven.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the cause of the crash was not yet clear.

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Photo: Technicians inspect an Israeli air force F-16 jet at the Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel. (AP: Ariel Schalit, file),-military-says/9419280

The ongoing conflict between Israel and neighbouring Arab nations is a dark chapter in modern history and one of the reasons behind a lot of terrorist activity.

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” - John Wooden
 Posted: Feb 11 2018, 10:15 AM

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Must have been a lucky or freak shot.

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