Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, called on the Security Council on Saturday to end “Iranian provocations” hours after Israel shot down a sophisticated Iranian drone that had breached Israeli airspace, and targeted a dozen Syrian and Iranian military sites in Syria in response before an Israeli F-16 jet was downed, injuring two pilots.
The incident marks the most significant confrontation between Israel and Syria and Iran since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011.
“All of our warnings regarding Iran have proven correct. We will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty,” Danon wrote to UN Security Council members in a letter on Saturday.
“This is not the first time that we have warned you of Iran’s dangerous actions that undermine the situation in our region. This incident proves every one of those warnings correct. Israel will defend its citizens and will not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty,” he wrote.
Danon called on the Security Council to “condemn this dangerous act and to put an immediate end to Iranian provocations.”
“Security Council members must not stand idly by while Iran is instigating dangerous escalations and violating Security Council resolutions,” he said.
Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about the increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli cabinet just held a meeting near the Syrian border to highlight the new threats, which it attributes to Iran’s growing confidence given the success of the government of Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, thanks to their support.
Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty,” and warned that Iran would be held accountable for its meddling, raising the specter of a larger confrontation in an area that has remained largely stable since a monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.
“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”
After the UAV was intercepted, Israel targeted at least 12 sites “including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria,” according to an Israeli military statement.
The Israeli military said its planes faced massive anti-aircraft fire from Syria that forced two pilots to abandon an F-16 jet that crashed in northern Israel. The pilots were injured, one seriously and another lightly.
Israel would not confirm whether the aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.
Israel has long complained about the involvement of archenemy Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, in the Syria war. Both have sent forces to back Assad, who appears headed toward victory after years of fighting. Israel has said it will not accept a permanent military presence by Iran and its Shiite allies in Syria, especially near the Israeli border.
Israel has shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria. The capture of an Iranian drone and the targeting of Iranian sites in response, however, marked a dramatic escalation in the Israeli retaliation. The military confirmed that the initial target in Syria — the unmanned aircraft’s launch components — was successfully destroyed, and released grainy footage of the strike. Israel also said it had recovered the remnants of the drone, which proved that it belonged to Iran.
IAF second-in-command Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar said Saturday that the IAF was investigating.
“We are verifying what caused the pilots’ injuries,” Bar said earlier Saturday, “whether from an anti-aircraft missile or from ejecting. It’s not clear whether the missile hit the plane but we are assuming it did.”