PNN / Bethlehem
After the downing of one of its F-16 fighter planes by Syrian anti-air fire on Saturday, Israel is bolstering its missile defence system along its northern border, according to a report by the Jerusalem Post.
Convoys of missile batteries were reportedly being transported to the north, near the Arab-majority city of Baqa el-Garbiyeheth on Saturday, though neither the Israeli Air Force nor the Defence Force have confirmed the move.
Bolstering its offensive and defensive capabilities, Israel marks the next step in the crisis that first unfolded on Saturday morning. An incursion made by an Iranian drone into Israeli air space prompted the Israel Air Force to scatter eight fighter jets in a coordinated assault on the ‘T-4 base’ in Syria – the base reportedly responsible for the drone launch.
According to IAF officials, over 20 surface-to-air missiles were fired at the Israeli jets during the assault. Fearing one of the missile had been locked onto one of the jets, the pilot and co-pilot decided to eject. They landed in the Beit Netofa Valley in Lower Galilee and were evacuated to the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa.
Israel proceeded to hit 12 more targets in Syria in retaliation, according to IDF spokesman, LT. Jonathon Conricus.
This latest episode has been criticised globally as a severe escalation of tensions in the region, feeding concerns of a looming conflict between Israel and Iran and its proxy Hezbollah.
Major-General Yoel Strick, head of the Israeli Northern Command on Sunday said that Iranian presence in Syria was a ‘disturbing threat to Israel and the entire world,’ and said that any further test to Israeli sovereignty would ‘receive an appropriate response.’
Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Israel has launched over 100 airstrikes into regions of southern Syria. Israel claims the assaults were made on Hezbollah and Iranian targets operating from within Syria which Israel sees as posing a direct threat to its sovereignty and national security.