In one of the most serious skirmishes involving Israel since the Syrian Civil War erupted, Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired last night at Israel Air Force planes after they completed a mission hitting unknown targets in Syria.
There has been no confirmation of what exactly the Israeli jets were targeting, although Israeli leaders have confirmed that operations have been launched in Syria to prevent advanced weapons being transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In a serious escalation, the Syrian army fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli planes. The Syrian missiles did not hit their targets but Israel deployed the Arrow anti-missile system for the first time, which successfully intercepted and destroyed one of the Syrian missiles. The Arrow interception caused an audible explosion, which was heard in central Israel. It also triggered rocket warning sirens in communities in the Jordan Valley, including Gitit, Mesoa, Yitav and Yafit in the Arvot Hayarden Regional Council.
In a rare public statement the IDF confirmed that Israeli jets carried out a mission when they came under fire. The IDF statement said: “On March 17, IAF aircraft targeted several targets in Syria… Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and the IDF aerial defence systems intercepted one of the missiles. At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised.”
Israel has remained firmly on the sidelines of the Syrian Civil War, despite periodic errant fire across the border. Israel has launched a number of missions to hit targets in Syria in order to prevent weapons transfers to Hezbollah. An air strike near Damascus was reported last month and Syria claims that in January and December, Israeli surface-to-air missiles hit the Mezzeh airbase and that in a separate incident Israeli jets fired two missiles towards the outskirts of Damascus.