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Israel warns over Iran's presence in Syria after air strikes

AFP  |  Jerusalem 

issued stark warnings today over Iran's presence in neighbouring after a confrontation threatened to open a new and unpredictable period in the country's seven-year civil war.

carried out major air raids in yesterday, including against what it described as Iranian targets in the country -- the first time it had publicly acknowledged doing so since the war began.

The raids came after an Israeli fighter jet was shot down by Syrian air defences. The pilots survived, but it was Israel's first loss of a warplane in battle since 1982.

"We inflicted on Saturday a heavy blow to Iranian and Syrian forces," said at the start of today's cabinet meeting.

"We made clear to everyone that our rules of engagement will not change in any way. We will continue to harm anyone who tries to harm us. This was our policy and this will remain our policy."

Other Israeli ministers spoke of refusing to accept entrenching itself militarily in Syria, as Netanyahu has said repeatedly. denies it is doing so.

While several analysts said they did not expect a further escalation in the coming days, some spoke of the possibility of the Syrian war entering a new phase.

has become more emboldened to try to stop Israeli strikes inside the country, while wants to maintain its ability to operate there when it sees fit, said of the think tank.

Israel has sought to stay out of direct involvement in the Syrian war, but it acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it describes as deliveries of advanced weapons to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

Israel fought a devastating war in 2006 with Hezbollah, which backs the Syrian regime in the conflict along with and

"I think this incident is more likely to be contained because fundamentally it is a gradual attempt to renegotiate the so-called rules of the game," Zalzberg said, adding that should mediate.

Witnesses said Israel had deployed a missile defence system in the near the demarcation line with Syria this morning.

Yesterday's events began with Israel shooting down what it described as an Iranian drone that had entered Israeli airspace from Syria -- which has denied.

Israel responded with a raid against what it said was the Iranian in Syria that sent the drone.

During that raid, the Israeli met heavy Syrian anti- aircraft fire and was hit, Israeli Amnon Ein Dar told

The pilots ejected and the plane crashed inside Israel. One of the pilots was severely wounded, but his condition was said to be improving today.

Israel then carried out what it called "large-scale" air strikes inside Syria, including against what it described as Iranian targets.

Israeli warned Saturday that Syria and were "playing with fire", but stressed that his country was not seeking an escalation.

"This is the most blatant and severe Iranian violation of Israeli sovereignty" in recent years, Conricus said.

Iran dismissed Israeli "lies" and said Syria had the right to defend itself against Israeli attacks.

Iranian also said "Iran does not have a military presence in Syria, and has only sent military advisers at the request of the Syrian government."

stressed the need to "avoid any measure that could lead to a dangerous escalation".

called for an immediate de-escalation.

Netanyahu spoke with both Russian Vladimir Putin and US after yesterday's confrontation.

backed Israel and blamed Iran for the escalation.

Tillerson begins today a tour that will take him to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and

Netanyahu has met regularly with Putin in recent months in a bid to convince Russia to keep Iranian forces away from its territory in Syria.

Russia and Israel have also established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.

Israel is technically at war with Syria and occupies a swathe of the that it seized in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

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

First Published: Sun, February 11 2018. 19:15 IST