Israeli security forces examine the remains of an F-16 Israeli war plane near the Israeli village of Harduf, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
CAIRO -12 February 2018: Israel mounted a 'large-scale attack' in Syria on Saturday after dropping an Israeli F-16 fighter jet with a Syrian missile targeting Iranian positions in Syria, raising fears of a military escalation that has been in conflict for seven years.
Tel Aviv on Sunday raised its threats to Iran and accused it of over incursion to its airspace by an Iranian drone over its territory, according to the Israeli army.
The pilot and the sailor were taken to the hospital for treatment; the hospital spokesman confirmed on Sunday that the pilot is currently in moderate condition after undergoing surgery on Saturday, while the other was allowed to go home.
Some Israeli newspapers described the escalation as the first direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, such as Israel's Maariv newspaper, which called it “the first direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran,” while the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported “a day of fighting with Iran.”
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Israeli forces were “fully prepared for further action,” adding "Syrians are playing with fire when they allow Iranians to attack Israel."
"We sent a strong blow to Iranian and Syrian forces on Saturday,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Sunday at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.
"We have made it clear to everyone that our rules of engagement will not change in any way, we will continue to hit anyone who tries to hit us," Netanyahu said.
The Minister of Intelligence Israel Katz stressed that the Jewish state "will not accept the Iranian military presence in Syria."
For his part, the Syrian military and its allies denied the drone violated Israeli airspace, saying that they targets (IS) Islamic Terrorist group, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Defense Ministry issued a statement on its website that it hit more than one Israeli plane, adding that the Israeli enemy once again attacked some of our military bases in the southern region, responded to our air defenses and foiled aggression.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry has also announced that it will file a UN complaint against Israel after it used Lebanese airspace to launch attacks on Syria on Saturday.
Iran's Foreign Ministry refused to report Israel's objection to an unmanned Iranian drone launched from Syria on Saturday which he described as "ridiculous," state television reported.
"Reports of an Iranian drones flying over Israel and Iran's involvement in an attack on an Israeli fighter are very ridiculous," state television quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasimi as saying. "Iran only provides military advice to Syria.”
The Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hussein Salami threatened that Iran would be able to destroy all American military bases in the region and Israel, stressing that Tehran would continue to develop its military capabilities.
"We strongly urge all parties to exercise restraint and avoid all actions that would further complicate the situation," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
On the other side, the United States declared on Saturday its strong support for Israeli aggression on Syrian territory, where State Department spokeswoman Heather Naort said that the United States strongly supported Israel's right to "defend itself".
On Saturday, the Russian Foreign ministry urged all sides in Syria to exercise restraint, warning that it is absolutely unacceptable to threaten Russian soldier’s lives in Syria to help in the war against terrorism.
Syria and Israel are still in a state of war, although the Golan’s armistice line remained largely quiet for decades until the civil war erupted in Syria in 2011.