Israeli warplanes hit targets in Syria as tensions flare

Syrians walk past a giant poster of President Bashar al Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo

In a rare communique, in which Israel took responsibility for the usually clandestine airstrikes, the Israeli Air Force confirmed that its warplanes had struck several targets in neighboring Syria.

One missile was intercepted north of Jerusalem by Israel's Arrow air defence system, Israeli media reported.

Confirming the attack, the Israeli military said its aircraft struck several targets in Syria and were back in Israeli-controlled airspace when several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria toward the Israeli jets.

Nevertheless, analysts said the incident represented a significant shift in Syria's response to Israeli airstrikes inside its territory.

Air strikes, said to have been carried out by Israel, have hit sites in Syria on numerous occasions, reportedly targeting weapons shipments for Lebanon's Shia militant movement Hezbollah.

The Syrian army claimed it successfully shot down one Israeli plane and hit a second - a claim swiftly denied by Israel.

Despite rarely previously responding to Israeli operations inside Syria, the Syrian foreign ministry said the military fired at the Israeli jets "to defend the sanctity of its territory". However, Israel's Arrow defence system is created to intercept long-range ballistic missiles high in the stratosphere, so it remained unclear why the system would have been used in this particular incident.

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Israel has long focused on stopping the transfer of weapons from Syria to terror groups.

The army said the incident set off sirens in Jewish settlement communities in the Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank.

Netanyahu stated: "Our policy is very consistent".

"When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it", according to the Times of Israel.

Syria's regime of Bashar al-Assad is allied with fellow Shia Muslim nation Iran, who have been equipping Hezbollah with weaponry and military expertise.

A more likely scenario, several experts here said, is that the Syrian regime was so incensed by yet another successful Israeli air attack on its soil that it fired off a Scud-type ballistic missile to make a point. "Israel's security is above everything else; there will be no compromise", Lieberman said on Israeli public radio on Sunday.

One of the missiles was intercepted by Israel's Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use.


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