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US, Israel Say Israel Has Right to Defend Itself

VOA - Sunday 11th February, 2018

The U.S. Defense Department said Saturday that Israel was entitled to protect itself against acts of aggression. The statement was made after Israel attacked a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria earlier in the day.

'Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel's inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people,' said Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway, adding that the U.S. was not involved in the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed similar remarks after speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia is militarily supporting the Syrian government in its war against rebel and jihadist forces.

'I reiterated to him our obligation and right to defend ourselves against attacks from Syrian territory. We agreed coordination between our armies would continue,' said Netanyahu, who also discussed the strike with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The Israeli attack consisted of waves airstrikes inside Syria, launched after an Iranian drone infiltrated Israeli territory on the disputed Golan Heights and was shot down. The Israeli army said a 'large-scale attack' destroyed at least a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria.

Also, anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli F-16 fighter jet in Israel that was returning from the raid on Iranian-backed positions in Syria. The two pilots ejected; Israel said one pilot was severely injured and the other was slightly injured.

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said, 'Iran is dragging the region into a situation in which it doesn't know how it will end. We are prepared for a variety of incidents ... whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.'

The Syrian attack resulted in air raid sirens being activated in the Golan Heights and Beit She'an, but no casualties were reported.

'The IDF will continue to operate against attempts to infiltrate Israeli airspace and will act with determination to prevent any violations of Israel's sovereignty,' an IDF spokesperson said Saturday.

Iranian efforts

Saturday's clashes occurred amid warnings from Israeli leaders that they will not tolerate growing efforts by Iran to establish military bases in Syria and Lebanon that could be used to launch attacks against the Jewish State.

Reuven Ben Shalom, a former Israeli fighter pilot, says Israel's quick interception of the drone and surgical strikes on Syrian and Iranian targets sent a clear message to the other side.

"This demonstrates our capabilities, demonstrates our resolve not to allow the breach of Israeli sovereignty. That means we can do whatever we want to do, we can take out any component we want, wherever we want. And I think it's good that our enemies learn and understand these capabilities," he said.

Nevertheless, in Damascus the incident was seen as a victory.

Syria's state media said Syria was responding to 'new Israeli aggression,' following the Israeli raid.

Feras Shehabi, a Syrian lawmaker, said Syria's response to Israel's assault signaled a 'major shift in the balance of power in favor of Syria and the axis of resistance.' He said 'Israelis must realize they no longer have superiority in the skies or on the ground.'

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