Israel clashed with Syrian and Iranian military forces on Saturday in a series of audacious cross-border strikes that could mark a dangerous new phase in Syria’s long civil war.
The confrontations, which threaten to draw Israel more directly into the conflict, began before dawn when Israel intercepted what it said was an Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace from Syria. The Israeli military then attacked what it called the command-and-control center from which Iran had launched the drone, at a Syrian air base near Palmyra.
On its way back from the mission, one of Israel’s F-16 fighter jets crashed in northern Israel after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire. It is believed to be the first Israeli plane lost under enemy fire in decades.
That prompted a broad wave of Israeli strikes against a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets in Syrian territory. The Israeli military said it hit eight Syrian targets, including three aerial defense batteries, and four Iranian positions that it described as “part of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.”
The events, including Israel’s direct engagement with Iranian forces, threatened to intensify the crisis in Syria and showed the extent to which the country has become a battlefield between Israel and Iran, bitter foes in the region.