In response to the F-16 downing, after 8:00 A.M. local time the Israeli Air Force fired several missiles targeting the Al-Kiswah area near what is said to be an Iranian base outside of Damascus. And shortly after this initial Israeli retaliation strike, a more massive wave of missiles hit a mountaintop Syrian Army base in the same area. Regional sources are reporting that multiple Israeli missiles struck the base, while others were intercepted by Syrian air defense.
It appears that Israel launched missiles on locations in central Syria as well, with casualties reported among Syrian Army forces and their allies. The Associated Press cites a Syrian opposition monitoring group to report the following:
A Syria war monitor says Israel has struck targets in central Syria and the southwestern suburbs of the capital Damascus in two separate and successive waves of airstrikes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the first round targeted in the central desert area where Syrian troops and their Iranian-backed allies including Hezbollah are known to maintain bases. It cited unconfirmed reports of casualties among Syrian government forces and allied militiamen.
The Britain-based Observatory, which monitors the Syria war through a network of activists on the ground, says the second round targeted outposts in the southwestern suburbs of Damascus.
Syrian government media reported multiple missile intercepts, likely through its sophisticated Russian-supplied anti-air defense system, and confirmed the large-scale Israeli attack on Syrian military locations in central Syria.
According to Syrian state-run SANA:
The army air defense confronted a new Israeli aggression on one of the military positions in the central area and hit more than one aircraft…
Moreover, the Army air defense confronted another Israeli aggression on Damascus Countryside on Saturday morning…
Meanwhile, media of the Israeli enemy admitted that the Syrian air defense shot down an F-16 jet over Galilee in occupied Palestine and that its pilots were injured, confirming the closure of parts the Israeli airspace for aviation after downing the warplane
As a result of escalating events airspace closures have been reported over northern Israel, as well as multiple Israeli air defense warning sirens sounding at the Golan Heights and throughout lower and upper Galilee.
Israel’s Ben Gurion international airport outside of Tel Aviv was also reportedly on lockdown for some period of time after the exchange of fire between Syrian and Israeli forces.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military has blamed close Syrian ally Iran for today’s F-16 shoot down and escalation. The IDF issued a threatening statement which reads: “The IDF will act determinately against such severe violations of Israeli sovereignty by Iran and Syria and will continue to act as necessary. The IDF is ready for various scenarios and will continue to act according to situation assessments.“
And according to a statement issued to the AFP, Israel says Iran and Syria are “playing with fire” but that Israel does not want escalation. However, regional media reports indicate Israel has continued to pound the Damascus countryside throughout the morning. The Syrian government has condemned Israel’s actions as unwarranted “aggression”.
It must be remembered that the Israeli Air Force has acknowledged striking targets inside Syria at least 100 times over the past few years of the conflict, with the last attack prior to today’s events happening just earlier this week. Syria has frequently taken its case before the U.N., calling for official condemnation of the unprovoked attacks, but has been just as frequently rebuffed.
In its now ‘open secret’ of a years-long pursuit of regime change in Syria, Israel has given covert support to al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria’s south – near the vicinity of today’s F-16 shoot down – which has involved weapons transfers and treatment of wounded jihadists in Israeli hospitals, according to The Wall Street Journal. As former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell once directly told the Israeli public, Israel’s “dangerous game” in Syria has involved getting in bed with al-Qaeda in order to fight Shia Iran.
And as Israel has long sought ways to justify attacks on Iranian assets in Syria while at the same time undermining and destabilizing the Syrian government, the downing of an F-16 may have given Israel’s hawkish leadership the excuse they’ve been looking for all along to escalate toward a final confrontation.
Middle East based journalist and analyst Elijah Magnier says we could be witnessing the tipping point that will ignite the entire region. Magnier reports that according to a “private source, all Syrian military and intelligence and their allies’ (Hezbollah) positions in Syrian and Lebanon are on full alert.”