Iranian Drone Shot Down after Invading Israel; F-16 Crashes in Counterstrike

An air battle erupted over Israel on Saturday. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth.

Iran invaded Israeli airspace on Saturday, setting off a miniature air-war involving three nations and ultimately resulting in an Israeli pilot and navigator being injured when their F-16 was shot down in the conflict. It all started when an Iranian drone aircraft flew into Israeli territory from Syria and was subsequently shot down by an Israeli helicopter early Saturday morning, according to a timeline of the day’s fighting posted to IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus’ Twitter page.

In response, Israeli jets hit Iranian targets inside Syria and during that counterstrike an Israeli F-16 was hit in a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. The pilot and navigator ejected from the plane into Israeli territory. By the time it was all over, Israeli jets had launched a “large scale attack” against Syrian air defenses and Iranian targets.

In a separate Twitter post, Conricus said that the Iranian drone—designed after an American drone captured by Iran in 2011—got three-to-four miles into Israeli territory and was observed for one-and-a-half minutes before being taken down. On Sunday, one day after the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that the Israeli response was strong and will continue to be.

“We dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit; we will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us. This has been our policy and it will remain our policy.”

The battle represents some of the most significant official fighting between Israel and Syria in decades and extremely rare fighting between Israel and Iran. Conricus tweeted that the Israelis, in response to Iran’s aggression with the drone—also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV—struck an Iranian UAV control unit in Syria. As part of the Israeli counterstrike, they hit a dozen targets, including four Iranian military targets in Syria, according to a Tweet from the IDF Spokesperson.

Following the incident, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon used Twitter to call upon the UN Security Council to “condemn these dangerous actions & put an immediate end to Iran’s provocations.”

Tweeted Danon in another post, “We have repeatedly warned of the dangers emanating from Iran’s presence in Syria. The events of the past 24 hours prove every one of those warnings correct. Israel will continue to defend its citizens & will not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty.”

The Americans stood by Israel’s right to defend themselves and said they were “deeply concerned” by the escalation over the Israeli border. Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement from the State Department, “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 US 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 Israeli pilot whose plane was shot down was in moderate condition on Sunday and the jet’s navigator was wounded lightly, but Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said following a visit with them in the hospital on Sunday that both “were recovering at a swift pace.” In comments released by his spokesperson, Rivlin highlighted the overall danger posed by Iran.

“We constantly warn our friends in the world who think they can reach an arrangement with Iran. As far as we are concerned, we are not only talking about a nuclear danger, but also about a state that supports terrorism,” said Rivlin. “…Israel will not stand by as Iran wishes us ill and says so outright. The Prime Minister was right yesterday, when he warned that everyone in the world, the powers and countries, know that we cannot accept Iran’s involvement here in our borders, at our gates.”

The IDF Spokesperson pointed out in a separate Tweet that the Iranian drone took off from a Syrian air base. “For a long time Iran and the Quds Force have been operating, with the backing of Syrian forces and the approval of the Syrian regime, from the Syrian T-4 Airbase near Tadmor.”

Meanwhile, Conricus was quoted giving a firm warning to Iran and its allies in a post on the IDF website, although he noted that Israel also isn’t searching for conflict.

Said the top English-speaking IDF spokesperson, “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.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, February 11, 2018)

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