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ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed yesterday to have dealt “severe blows” to Iranian and Syrian forces, talking tough following the downing of an Israeli jet by Syria’s anti-aircraft defences.
Tel Aviv launched a wave of air raids against Syria on Saturday, supposedly after intercepting an Iranian drone. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least six Syrian soldiers and allied militia fighters had been killed in the strikes.
The bombers came under anti-aircraft fire and one F-16 crash-landed in northern Israel after being struck by a missile — the first time an Israeli plane has been shot down in a war zone since 1982.
Mr Netanyahu was at pains to stress that the fate of that aircraft would not deter Israel from continuing to illegally bomb Syria.
“We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit,” he said.
“We will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us.
“This has been our policy and it will remain our policy.”
Israel has launched repeated raids on Syrian troops and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies, leading to accusations from Damascus that it is actively aiding the Isis terror group.
The Israeli army is also accused of using hospitals in the Golan Heights — Syrian territory illegally occupied by Israel since 1967 — to patch up rebel fighters who then return to the fray.
Mr Netanyahu spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, apparently agreeing to avoid escalation.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry described the Israeli air raids as “absolutely unacceptable,” saying they endangered its own troops in Syria who were present “at the invitation of its legitimate government.”
The US sided with Israel, saying it supported its “right to defend itself” and calling on “Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions.”
Israel has condemned the Syrian government for fighting alongside Hezbollah and also alleges a significant Iranian presence in Syria, although independent journalists such as Robert Fisk say they have come across no evidence of this.
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