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Israeli F-16 downed due to pilot error during Syria strike, report finds

i24NEWS

3 min read
Les débris d'un avion de combat israélien F-16 qui s'est écrasé dans le Kibboutz de Harduf dans le nord d'Israël, après avoir essuyé des tirs lors de raids contre des cibles en Syrie, par la défense antiaérienne syrienne, le 10 février 2018
Jack GUEZ (AFP)Les débris d'un avion de combat israélien F-16 qui s'est écrasé dans le Kibboutz de Harduf dans le nord d'Israël, après avoir essuyé des tirs lors de raids contre des cibles en Syrie, par la défense antiaérienne syrienne, le 10 février 2018

It was the first time Israel had lost a fighter jet to enemy fire since the First Lebanon War in 1982

The Israeli pilots whose fighter jet was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire earlier this month erred by not aborting their mission after coming under attack, according to the results of a military investigation into the incident released on Sunday.

After an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace on February 11, Israel launched air strikes on Iranian and government targets in Syria. 

However the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad responded with a firestorm of anti-aircraft missiles and one F-16 warplane plummeted into Jezreel Valley -- after being sprayed with missile shrapnel -- and its pilots ejected. One was seriously injured.

"The crew made a professional error by choosing to complete the mission and not defend themselves sufficiently. Their actions did not correlate with standard procedure while under enemy fire," a summary of the probe's conclusions released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. 

It was almost the only critical finding of the internal investigation, which otherwise noted "correct" preparations for the operation, sound intelligence, the destruction of the intended targets and that the "aircraft's self-defense systems operated properly and alerted the crew on time."

It was the first time Israel had lost a fighter jet to enemy fire since the First Lebanon War in 1982.

The loss of the plane sparked further Israeli strikes in Syria, in what the military described as a "large-scale" assault on the country's air defense system. 

Syria and its allies Iran and Hezbollah hailed the Israeli setback as a new strategic line in the sand, vowing to shoot down any further Israeli aircraft that incurred into its airspace. 

Israel has reportedly carried out dozens of air strikes on Syrian territory during the country's civil war, chiefly targeting weapons believed destined for Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia with whom Israel fought a war in 2006.

Israel's air force chief, Major General Amikam Norkin, praised the military personnel who carried out the retaliatory strikes. 

"I want to praise our Aerial Defense Systems, which detected and identified the Iranian UAV, as well as the soldiers who intercepted the UAV, destroyed the Iranian aircraft launch components and the additional Syrian and Iranian targets, strikes which severely harmed Syria's Aerial Defense systems," he was quoted as saying in the IDF statement.

"Together, these attacks significantly curtailed Iran's attempts to extend its influence in Syria."