Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to crush Syrian air defence systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes.
“The next time the Syrians utilize their air defence systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Lieberman said on Israeli open radio.
Israeli warplanes hit a few targets in Syria on Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement.
Syria’s military said it had brought down one of the Israeli planes and hit another as they were carrying out the pre-dawn strikes close to the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.
The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian government has made similar claims in the past.
An Israeli armed force statement said “a few anti-aircraft missiles” were fired following assault however that none hit their targets.
One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow air defence system, Israeli media revealed.
It was the most genuine occurrence between the two nations since the Syrian civil war started six years back.
In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had assaulted many convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is currently fighting alongside the Damascus regime.
“Each time we find arms transferss from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Lieberman said Sunday.
“The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms exchanges to Hezbollah and that if they keep on allowing them then we will do what we need to do.”
Israel does not usually affirm or deny individual raids, but rather it may have been led to do so this time by the circumstances of the incident.
President Bashar al-Assad’s position has been strengthened in recent months with his forces reclaiming the whole of Syria’s second city Aleppo, and also enjoying proceeding with Russian support.
Lieberman said he didn’t wish “to interfere in the Syrian civil war or provoke a confrontation with the Russians” however that Israel’s security would remain his top priority.
Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognised by the international community.
Israel and Syria are still technically at war, however the border had remained largely quiet for a long time until 2011 when the Syrian clash started.