Hizbullah hails downing of Israel F-16; Netanyahu warns Iran and Syria ‘playing with fire’

by WorldTribune Staff, February 11, 2018

Hizbullah said the downing of an Israeli F-16 on Feb. 10 marked a “new strategic era,” while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel inflicted a “heavy blow” on Iranian and Syrian forces in a series of airstrikes and warned the two nations were “playing with fire.”

Israeli security personnel examine the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel.

“This is the beginning of a new strategic era which puts an end to the violation of Syrian airspace and territory,” Hizbullah said in a statement published by Lebanon’s ANI news agency. “Today’s developments mean the old equations have categorically ended.”

The Israeli F-16 was downed after reportedly being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. The plane’s two crew members are alive after ejecting, although one was severely wounded, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.

It is the first time Israel has lost a warplane in battle since 1982.

“Iran and Syria are playing with fire,” the Israeli army said in a statement.“The IDF acts with determination against the attempt of the Iranian-Syrian attack and the violation of Israeli sovereignty. The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios and will continue to act as necessary.”

The IDF said Israeli warplanes destroyed three Syrian anti-aircraft batteries and four targets “that are part of Iran’s military establishment.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Israel targeted several bases in the east of Homs province. The Observatory said the bases are used by both Iranians and Russians deployed in support of the Assad regime.

“We made clear to everyone that our rules of engagement will not change in any way,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting on Feb. 11. “We will continue to harm anyone who tries to harm us. This was our policy and this will remain our policy.”

The airstrikes were launched after Israel shot down what it said was an Iranian drone that had entered Israeli airspace.

Israeli Security Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio the Iranian drone appeared to have been modeled on the U.S. RQ-170 drone that was downed in Iran in 2011.

Video footage distributed by the IDF on Feb. 10 showed both the interception of the drone by an Israel Air Force Apache attack helicopter and an Israeli airstrike on the mobile container from which the drone was controlled.

Iran, in a joint statement with the Syrian regime, Russia and Hizbullah, denied that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace.

In a statement, Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani said, “If certain countries think that bombing neighboring countries will solve [their] problem – they are making a serious mistake. A military solution, foreign intervention and the destruction of weapons – are not a solution to the situation in the Middle East.”

The U.S. State Department said it “strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself,” calling “for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability.”

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