Israeli strikes were 'heavy blow' to Iranian, Syrian forces: Netanyahu
Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israeli air strikes in Syria the previous day were a "heavy blow" to Iranian and Syrian forces in the war-torn country.
"We inflicted on Saturday a heavy blow to Iranian and Syrian forces," Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting, referring to major Israeli air raids in Syria.
"We made clear to everyone that our rules of engagement will not change in any way. We will continue to harm anyone who tries to harm us. This was our policy and this will remain our policy."
The IDF said that the strikes against Syrian air defenses and Iranian "targets" constituted "the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses" since the 1982 Lebanon War.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that six people were killed in the strikes, including both Syrian regime fighters as well as allies with “non-Syrian nationalities.”
The escalation erupted when an Iranian drone violated Israeli airspace and was shot down. In response, the IDF unleashed several airstrikes within Syria, including the vehicle where the drone originated.
The air base was said to be bristling with Iranian personnel and weaponry. It was the first time Israel has publicly acknowledged targeting what it identified as Iranian positions in Syria since the conflict started.
The raids came after an Israeli F16 fighter jet was shot down by Syrian air defenses. The pilots survived, but it was the first time Israel had lost a warplane in battle since 1982.
Israel's Minister of Intelligence Israel Katz on Sunday told Army Radio that it would take Iran time to "digest" the significance of the strikes, including how Israel knew of the covert military posts targeted in the raids.
“They, and we, know what we hit and it will take them some time to digest, understand, and ask how Israel knew how to hit those sites,” Katz said. “These were concealed sites and we have intelligence agencies and the ability to know everything that is going on there and yesterday we proved that.”
Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syria conflict, but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it calls deliveries of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.
“If Israel would have proactively struck at the targets that were hit yesterday, regardless of the UAV, the ground would have shook,” Katz added.
Israel is technically at war with Syria, and has annexed a swathe of the strategic Golan Heights that it seized in the Six-Day War of 1967 in a move never recognized by the international community.
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