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Israel downs Iranian drone and strikes Syria, F-16 crashes

AP  |  Jerusalem 

The Israeli shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country early today before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in

called it a "severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty" and warned of further action against the unprecedented Iranian aggression.

The said its planes faced massive anti-aircraft fire from that forced two pilots to abandon an jet that crashed in One pilot was seriously wounded and the other lightly.

Syrian officials reported large explosions in the center of the country and the Syrian counter fire set off warning sirens throughout

The Israeli strikes marked its most significant engagement since the fighting in neighboring began in 2011 and said would be held responsible for its outcome.

"This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn't know how it will end," Israel's chief spokesman, Brig Gen Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement.

"Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price."

Gen Hossein Salami, of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, did not acknowledge Israel's claim it shot down the drone. "We do not confirm any such from Israel," he said.

said in statements on its website that its air defenses responded successfully to the Israeli operation and hit more than one plane.

"The Israeli enemy has once again attacked some of our military bases in the southern area and our air defenses responded and foiled the aggression," it said.

and were convening the top brass at military headquarters in to discuss further response.

Israel has mostly stayed out of the prolonged fighting in Syria, wary of being drawn into a war in which nearly all the parties are hostile toward it.

It has recently been warning of the increased Iranian presence along its border, but said today's incident marked the most "blatant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty" yet.

He said Israel has no interest in further escalation but that it would "extract a heavy price" for such aggression.

He said was "playing with fire" by infiltrating Israeli airspace, and stressed that the unmanned aircraft Israel shot down was "on a military mission sent and operated by Iranian military forces." He said Israel recovered the dispatched drone, which was clearly Iranian.

In response, Conricus said Israeli jets destroyed the Iranian site in that launched it. Upon their return, the jets came under heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

The pilots of one of the had to escape and the plane crashed. It's unclear whether the plane was actually struck or if the pilots abandoned their mission for a different reason.

If the plane was in fact shot down by enemy fire, it could mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first war.

In subsequent attacks, Israel struck four additional Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites in Syria. The military said significant damage was caused.

Conricus said the Israeli jets faced between 15 to 20 anti-aircraft missiles fired by SA-5 and SA-17 batteries. All the Israeli jets in those sorties returned home safely.

The for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said Israel targeted the edges of a military air base, called T-4, in the desert near Palmyra, where Iranian and Hezbollah forces are based alongside Syrian troops.

The Observatory said the raids resulted in casualties, but didn't specify. It also said Israeli raids targeted areas in southwestern Damascus, bordering the southern provinces. This was followed by raids on posts along the Damascus-road, close to the border between Syria and

Syrian state TV said air defenses hit more than one Israeli plane and that a girl was injured when Israeli missiles fell near a school in a neighborhood in Damascus' countryside.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, February 10 2018. 17:10 IST