Israel Hits Syrian Anti-Aircraft Battery in Response to Fire on Jets over Lebanonإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Israel's military carried out an air strike on an anti-aircraft battery in Syria on Monday after it fired toward its planes, while vowing it sought no further escalation in the war-torn country.
Israeli planes were on what the military described as a “routine reconnaissance mission” over Lebanon when an anti-aircraft missile was fired in their direction, a military spokesman said.
The planes returned safely, according to the spokesman, adding it was believed the anti-aircraft battery in Syria was destroyed.
Syria's military said Israel's air force breached the country's air space, causing it to respond with its air defenses.
It claimed one of the Israeli planes was hit, "forcing it to flee."
Israel then "launched several missiles ... on one of our military positions in the Damascus region, causing only material damage," Syrian state television quoted the military as saying.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists: "We hold the Syrian regime responsible for the anti-aircraft fire and any attack originating from Syria."
He said Israel "will maintain its ability to thwart hostile intentions and activities endangering Israeli civilians."
Syria's military said it "warns against the dangerous consequences of repeated attempts at aggression by Israel."
Conricus did not specify how many Israeli planes were involved in the reconnaissance mission, but described them as being "in proximity to the Syrian border."
The battery targeted was located some 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Damascus, he said.
It was believed to be the first time since Syria's civil war began that Israeli planes were fired toward while in Lebanese airspace, said Conricus.
However, Israel's military said it had no interest in any further escalation.
"Israel has no intention to destabilize the situation," said Conricus.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later said: "We will continue to act in the region when it is required to ensure Israel's security...
"Our policy is clear: Those who wish to attack us will be attacked by us."
- Russian visit -
Israel has sought to avoid becoming more directly involved in the six-year civil war in neighboring Syria, though it acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes to stop what it calls advanced arms deliveries to Hizbullah.
The Lebanese Shiite group is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the conflict. Israel and Hizbullah fought a devastating war in 2006.
In March, Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria, drawing retaliatory missile fire in the most serious incident between the two countries since the start of the Syrian war.
At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the air strikes targeted weapons bound for Hizbullah and that Israel would do the same again if necessary.
Syria's military had said it launched anti-aircraft missiles at the aircraft, claiming it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they carried out pre-dawn strikes near the desert city of Palmyra.
Israel denied any of its aircraft was hit.
During the sortie, Israel fired its Arrow interceptor to take out what was believed to have been a Russian-made SA 5 missile.
In the aftermath, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems "without the slightest hesitation" if they fired on Israeli planes in future.
Monday's strike comes with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu due to visit Israel later in the day. Russia is also backing Assad in the Syrian conflict.
Russia and Israel have established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
"The Russians were notified in real time," Conricus said of the strike.
Shoigu and Lieberman were expected to discuss Syria and Iran's presence there.
Iran, Israel's main enemy, backs Assad in the war along with Russia and Israel is concerned Tehran will establish a permanent military presence along its border.