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Israel downs Iranian drone and strikes Syria

11 February 2018

Israel responded with a "large scale attack" on 12 bases in Syria.

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

The incidents marked the most serious confrontation yet between Israel and Iran since the civil war in Syria began in 2011. However, Israel also had little reason to support the Islamic State or al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist groups that became the Syrian government's primary rivals.

Israel has struck weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Syrian forces, nearly 100 times since 2012. It cited unconfirmed reports of casualties among Syrian government forces and allied militiamen.

Things began to change over the past year, however, as the Islamic State lost territory and Assad's forces and their allies regained control of the conflict. "We agreed the security coordination between our armies will continue", Netanyahu said at a press conference on Saturday evening, where he blamed Iran for the Saturday's incident.

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Why is what happened now different from previous Israeli strikes?

The attack came after Israel shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country.

Iran's expanding clout during the Syrian civil war, including deployments of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has raised alarm in Israel, which has said it would act against any threat from its regional arch-enemy Tehran. The drone was tracked by an Apache helicopter and shot down.

On Saturday the Israeli military said it had carried out "large-scale" raids including against Iranian targets in Syria.

During a phone call on Saturday, Putin and Netanyahu discussed the latest developments in Syria, both concurring that interaction between the two countries' militaries would be continued. An F-16 fighter plane crashed in northern Israel after coming under fire from Syrian anti-aircraft missiles, and the pilots were hospitalized with moderate to severe injuries.

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Hezbollah said on Saturday the "brave confrontation of the aggressing Israeli planes", including downing an F-16, ushers in a "new strategic phase" that puts an end to the violation of Syrian airspace and territories.

"We urge all parties involved to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could lead to an even greater complication of the situation", Russia's foreign ministry said in statement.

In response to the drone infiltration, the IDF attacked the Iranian T-4 center with eight fighter jets, which came under significant Syrian anti-aircraft fire, Conricus said. But the tit-for-tat fighting shows that neither side is willing to back down. One pilot was seriously wounded and the other lightly.

The T4 military base struck by Israel houses not only Syrian soldiers but Russian military officers, too. The Russian Foreign Ministry meanwhile stressed that Moscow remains "concerned" that new tensions could impact the zones of de-escalation "the creation of which became an important factor for the reduction of violence on Syrian soil".

The United States, a key Israeli ally, is already involved in the Syrian conflict, backing Syrian rebels, and at times has found itself at odds with Russian Federation.

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Israel downs Iranian drone and strikes Syria