The Israeli authorities have admitted to bombing targets inside Syria but rejected claims that the Syrian army shot down one of their jets. Syrian missiles were reportedly intercepted by Israel's advanced defense system.
The Syrian army accused Israel of "blatant aggression" in support of "terrorist gangs" on Friday, saying that four Israeli warplanes conducted pre-dawn raids on a military target near the ancient city of Palmyra.
"Our air defense engaged them and shot down one warplane over occupied territory, hit another one, and forced the rest to flee," the army said in a statement cited by the SANA news agency.
This account was promptly disputed by the Israelis, who claimed that none of their planes were damaged.
"At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF (Israeli Air Force) aircraft compromised," an Israeli military spokesman said. Israeli sources indicated that the raid targeted "strategic weapons intended for Hezbollah," the Lebanese militia supporting the Assad regime.
'Arrow' goes into action
In a rare move, the Israeli military admitted to the bombing raid and said that Syria launched several missiles in retaliation, which triggered rocket sirens in the Jordan Valley. One of the missiles was intercepted by its aerial defense systems, the IDF added.
According to Israeli Channel 10 TV, this was the first time Israel had deployed its Arrow defense system against a real threat. The advanced program is set to intercept long-range missiles, working in combination with Iron Dome, which is designed to protect from short-range threats, and other defense programs.
While Israel has mostly kept out of the Syrian civil war, its military repeatedly conducted airstrikes against Hezbollah forces. The Israeli government usually neither confirms nor denies these strikes. Also, the military occasionally launches a limited response when shelling and fighting spills over to Israeli-controlled territory.
In September 2016, the Syrian army also claimed to have shot down an Israeli plane and a drone. Israel denied it, however.
dj/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)