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IDF attacks Syrian military posts in retaliation for drone infiltration

A picture taken from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows smoke rising following explosions in a village in Syria's Quneitra province, on June 17 2015
Menahem Kahana (AFP/File)
Earlier the Israel Defense Forces shot down an unarmed drone that entered its airspace from Syria.

Israeli fighter planes targeted three military posts in Syria, in response to the infiltration of a Syrian UAV that was intercepted by Israels Defense Forces (IDF) earlier on Wednesday, the military spokesperson said.

"The aircraft of the Israeli enemy launches a number of missiles at several army positions," Syria's state news agency SANA reported, adding that the incident at taken place in Quneitra and had caused material damage.

SANA claimed Syrian air defenses blocked the Israeli missile attack on army positions in southwest Syria near the Golan Heights. Footage revealed by the IDF, however, showed the air force appearing to hit three targets followed by large explosions.

Hours later, the Israeli military confirmed the retaliatory attack in response to the infiltration of the unarmed Syrian drone earlier on Wednesday afternoon.

"The IDF holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces," the army said in a statement.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) shot down by a Patriot anti-aircraft missile was an intelligence-gathering vessel and belonged to the Syrian government. Its remains have already been retrieved just south of the Sea of Galilee, almost ten kilometers (six miles) inside Israel, army spokesman Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

Israel urgently checked with Russian and Jordanian officials that the drone did not belong to either country before it sent the Patriot to blast it out of the sky. Reportedly, this explained the army's delayed response that saw the drone travel 10 kilometers into Israeli airspace. Others have suggested it as an sign of Israel's unpreparedness to intercept hostile air crafts.

The UAV, according to the spokesman, had been tracked long before it entered Israel, flying through both Jordanian and Syrian air space.

The army is yet to determine whether the drone crossing into Israel was deliberate or accidental. Regardless, the infiltration was deemed a violation of Israeli sovereignty.

Whilst Israel upholds a policy of non-intervention in the seven year-long Syrian Civil War, it admits to carrying out frequent incursions into neighboring Syria, typically to strike Iranian or Hezbollah targets.

On June 24 the IDF fired at a drone inside Syria that did not manage to enter Israel's territory.

Polina Garaev, i24NEWS

In February Israel shot down an Iranian-operated drone that it tracked entering its airspace from Syria. That episode triggered a massive Israeli bombardment of Iranian military installations in Syria, fueling tensions that exploded in another round of rockets and counter-strikes later in the year.

Wednesday's incident came at the same moment Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Moscow ahead of a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

During the Kremlin meeting Netanyahu stressed that Russian-Israel co-operation "is central to the prevention of these flare ups and deterioration of such situations."

Russia is allied with Iran and has been the military backbone behind Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's slow-burning recapture of territory controlled by rebel forces during the country's seven-year-long civil war.

Putin has, however, allowed Israel a largely free hand in carrying out air strikes on both Syrian and Iranian targets in the country.

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