Israeli F-16 jet crashes after Syrian fire

JERUSALEM — An Israeli F-16 fighter jet crashed Saturday in northern Israel after coming under “massive anti-aircraft fire” from Syrian forces, according to the Israeli army.

The incident came after an Israeli combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle that had been launched from Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Both pilots aboard the Israeli jet are safe, the Israeli army said, although one pilot was severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation from the plane.

The crash happened as Israeli forces attacked 12 targets in Syria, including three aerial defense batteries and four targets described as Iranian, the IDF said.

The IDF statement described the four Iranian targets as “part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria.”

The statement concludes: “The IDF will act determinately against such severe violations of Israeli sovereignty by Iran and Syria and will continue to act as necessary.”

Syrian state news agency SANA reported that Syrian air defense forces had responded Saturday to what they called an Israeli “aggression” by hitting more than one Israeli plane, following attacks on a Syrian military base by Israel jets.

“The Israeli enemy entity early morning at dawn conducted a new aggression against one of the military bases in the central region,” SANA said, citing a military source.

IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus told CNN that only one Israeli aircraft had come down, with all others returning safely to base. The cause of the F-16 crash is being investigated, Conricus said.

He said in a tweet that “Iran is responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty.”

Earlier this week, the Syrian regime claimed that Israel warplanes fired several missiles from Lebanese airspace targeting a Syrian military position in the Damascus countryside, SANA reported.

The Syrian regime said they intercepted the missiles and destroyed most of them, according to SANA.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the incident.

Tensions between Israel and Syria have escalated in recent months.

Israel has conducted dozens of strikes inside Syrian borders to defend what it calls its red lines, and to prevent what it says is Iran’s proxy Hezbollah — fighting alongside the Syrian regime — from acquiring advanced weaponry.

Authorities also accused Syria in November of violating the 1974 ceasefire agreement by “conducting construction work” in the northern part of the Golan Demilitarized Zone.

The United Nations called Tuesday for a month-long humanitarian ceasefire throughout Syria as fighting escalates in certain areas.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime recently intensified airstrikes on rebel-held areas such as Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, prompting tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, according to UN officials.

A Russian warplane was shot down in Idlib last week.