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Backed Israel vows action vs Iran 'entrenchment' in Syria

11 February 2018

Despite its proximity, Israel has largely stood on the sidelines of the Syrian conflict over the past seven years.

Iran denies having conventional armed forces in Syria, reports the wire service.

What has Israel's involvement in the Syrian war been so far?

Iran's involvement in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad in a almost seven-year-old civil war - including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat. Until this weekend, counterstrikes by Syria and Hezbollah against Israel had caused little damage. These interventions generally were not announced publicly and were small in scale. It cited unconfirmed reports of casualties among Syrian government forces and allied militiamen. Many in Israel feared not only that Iran and its allies would entrench themselves near the Israeli border but that Hezbollah had been using the Syrian fighting as a training and that Iran might help the militia upgrade to the use of precision-guided missiles.

The military says it is "ready for various scenarios and will continue to act according to situation assessments".

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Why is what happened now different from previous Israeli strikes?

The Trump regime has backed Israel's hawkish stance on Iran, and has also declared containing Tehran's influence an objective of its Syria policy. Israel said its warplanes came under fire in Syria, though it was still unclear why the jet had come down. The IDF later released footage that it said showed the drone being brought down by an attack helicopter.

In a statement on its website Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was concerned about the Israeli attack and said it was unacceptable to create threats to the safety of Russian military personnel in Syria.

The incident was sparked by what Israel said was an Iranian drone infiltrating its air space.

Earlier today an Israeli F16 fighter jet was shot down after coming under fire from Syrian forces. One is in serious but stable condition and the other one was lightly wounded.

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Israeli officials wouldn't confirm if the F-16 had been downed by a Syrian missile, as teams combed the crash site for remains to analyze.

"The creation of any threat to the lives and safety of Russian military servicemen now in Syria on the invitation of its lawful government to help fight terrorists is absolutely unacceptable", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Israel said later Saturday that it had attacked 12 additional targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets "that are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria". It mounts air strikes in Syria on a regular basis, striking suspected weapons shipments to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant group. The United Nations has continued to reject Israel's claims to the region.

According to the New York Times, it was the first Israeli jet lost to enemy fire in decades. "Iran is dragging the region into a situation in which it doesn't know how it will end".

Russia, which has troops based at T4 military base, reacted with anger. Awkwardly, late last month, Netanyahu visited Moscow to push Russian Federation to rein in its Iranian allies in Syria.

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Israeli politicians from across the spectrum largely backed the government's response. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said it is unclear whether Russian contractors were among those involved in that advance. Turkey, for example, recently launched its own offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria's north, placing it in de facto opposition to the United States, which had allied itself with some Kurdish forces to defeat Islamic State forces.