Northern flare-up: Iran testing Israel, Russia

Israeli soldiers in a military post overlooking the border with Syria in the Golan Heights following an F-16 plane crash in northern Israel

Israel's military said the attacks were in retaliation for the violation of its airspace by an Iranian drone.

"We waited for it to cross into our territory", said IAF chief of air staff Brigadier General Tomer Bar who stressed that it was important for Israel "to get our hands on the drone that was operated by the Iranians".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman convened the top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv for long hours of emergency consultations throughout the Jewish Sabbath to discuss their next steps.

An Israeli spokesman said its aircraft had destroyed 12 military sites, including four allegedly occupied by Iranian forces.

It was the most serious confrontation between Iran and Israel since Syria's war began in 2011 and came amid growing alarm over Syrian government offensives against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta and Idlib.

"We won't accept either of those, and will act according to our needs", Netanyahu said then.

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.

Israel has struck weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Syrian forces, nearly 100 times since 2012.

Israel struck a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets inside Syria on Saturday in "large-scale" raids after an Israeli fighter jet crashed under fire from Syrian air defences in a severe increase in tensions, the military said. "Iran's presence in Syria is limited to advisers at the request of its legitimate government", an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qasemi, was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

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"Such an aggressive policy practiced by Israel threatens stability in the region", said its Foreign Ministry in a statement.

"In the past, the Israelis carried out attacks inside Syria, but they would not mention anything about the target or even acknowledge attacks".

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.

"Looking through the media reports, I don't think it affected any of our positions in the Golan Heights, because if it did, I would have been informed", he said.

Neighboring Lebanon said it will file a complaint with the United Nations Security Council over Israel's use of its airspace to launch attacks on Syria.

According to the New York Times, it was the first Israeli jet lost to enemy fire in decades. He said while Israel had no interest in further escalation it was prepared to "extract a heavy price" for such aggression.

In a statement, it said Israel had targeted an air base in the Homs desert that is being used to fly drones in missions against Islamic State.

An open conflict between Israel and Iranian-backed forces would add to the entanglements and chaos in Syria. This past week, US warplanes bombed pro-government forces after they allegedly advanced on USA -backed forces in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

Another sign that today's incident was not happenstance is the statement by Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese arm, which chose to respond with aggressive language: "The shooting down of the plane is the beginning of a new strategic stage that will restrict Israel's exploitation of Syrian airspace".

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