Israel shoots down Iranian drone, attacks targets in Syria (Israeli F-16 shot down)

Israel says an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace early Saturday. The drone was tracked by an Apache helicopter and shot down. From the Jerusalem Post:

Early on Saturday morning, an Iranian drone, which was launched from a Syrian base in the Homs desert, was identified approaching Israeli airspace by the IDF around 4 a.m., setting off alarms across Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley. The drone entered Israel via Jordanian airspace and flew for a minute and a half before it was intercepted by an Israeli Air Force Apache helicopter near the town of Beit She’an.

“We waited for it to cross into our territory,” said IAF chief of air staff Brigadier General Tomer Bar who stressed that it was important for Israel “to get our hands on the drone that was operated by the Iranians.”

After the drone went down, Israel sent jets into Syria and blew up the command center located at an airbase near Palmyra. Israel released this video of the drone being shot down and the command center strike:

The wreckage of the drone:

On the way back to Israel, an Israeli F-16 was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

During the operation, Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired at the aircraft and the pilots of one of the planes ejected themselves when they recognized that one of the missiles had locked onto their jet.

The pilots fell inside Israel and were evacuated to hospital. The army later cleared for release that one of the pilots was severely wounded while the other one was slightly injured.

There is video of one of the two pilots parachuting to the ground:

And here are some images of the F-16 crash site:

According to the New York Times, it was the first Israeli jet lost to enemy fire in decades. Israel then launched a broader series of strikes inside Syria, many aimed at Iranian positions:

The Israeli military said it hit eight Syrian targets, including three aerial defense batteries, and four Iranian positions that it described as “part of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.”…

Israel has long warned about the risk of conflict as Iranian forces and their allies, including Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group militia, have dug in on Syrian territory and approached the boundary with the Israeli-held portion of the Golan Heights. Israel, which considers Iran its most potent enemy in the region, has been lobbying world powers — so far, apparently, without success — to distance these forces from the border areas.

Prime Minister Netanyahu made a statement this morning about the incursion and Israel’s response. “This morning Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iran and Syria are denying that one of their drones ever entered Israel.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied the drone had strayed into Israeli airspace and rejected as “laughable” reports that Israel had intercepted a drone launched from Syria. “Iran’s presence in Syria is limited to advisers at the request of its legitimate government,” an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qasemi, was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Syrian Army officials said the drone had been carrying out a routine mission against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, over Syrian airspace, according to the news site Al-Manar.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, another spokesman for the Israeli military, insisted that the drone was “on a specific Iranian mission,” and was shot down deep in Israeli territory.

Finally, here is a map showing where the drone was shot down and where the F-16 crashed: