UPDATE WITH ISRAELI PM’S STATEMENT
By Ali Semerci and Enes Canli
JERUSALEM (AA) – The Israeli army shot down an Iranian drone launched from Syria and struck a number of Iranian targets in the war-torn country, according to the Israeli military.
Iran, for its part, denied the allegation, describing Israeli statements about shooting down an Iranian drone as “lies”.
In a statement, the Israeli army said an Iranian UAV entered Israeli airspace from Syria early Saturday and was intercepted by an Israeli Air Force Apache.
“In response, the IDF (Israeli army) targeted Iranian targets in Syria,” the army said.
According to the statement, 12 targets were attacked inside Syria, including three Syrian air defense batteries and four Iranian targets that were part of Iran’s buildup in Syria.
The army said anti-aircraft missiles were fired toward Israel during the airstrike, triggering rocket sirens to sound in the Golan Heights and northern Israel.
The Israeli army said it was prepared for “a variety of scenarios and will continue to act as necessary”.
According to the military, an Israeli aircraft crashed in northern Israel during the raid on Syria.
One of the pilots, the army said, has been seriously wounded as a result of an emergency evacuation from his F-16 jet that came under Syrian fire.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press meeting that Israel holds “Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible” for Saturday’s attack.
“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security,” Netanyahu said.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), for its part, denied Israeli claims about shooting down an Iranian drone.
Tasnim News Agency quoted an IRGC Lieutenant commander, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, as describing the Israeli statement as “lies”, saying he will not put any statement issued by Tel Aviv into consideration.
For decades, Israel-Iran relations have been characterized by deep animosity.
While Tehran sees Israel as its biggest enemy, the Jewish state insists Iran must be prevented from achieving a nuclear deterrent.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said it does not seek escalation in the region.
“We are willing, prepared and capable to exact a heavy price from anyone that attacks us, however, we are not looking to escalate the situation,” the army said in a statement.
Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth wrote Israel sought Russian mediation to prevent any further escalation on its border with Syria.
“[Israel] made clear to the Russians it considered all of its warnings of Iranian entrenchment in Syria have come to pass,” the newspaper wrote.
“The Russians were also told that once again as predicted by Israel, Iran was destabilizing the region -- counter to Russia's own interests,” it added.
Israel also sent a similar message to the U.S. administration to mediate to defuse tension between Israel and Lebanon over Israel’s building of a border fence between the two countries.
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