By Abdel-Raouf Arnaout
JERUSALEM (AA) Israeli fighter jets at dawn Friday struck a number of targets in next-door Syria, according to the Israeli military.
In a rare confirmation, the Israeli army said in a statement that “a number” of its warplanes had struck positions inside Syrian territory.
It did not provide additional details except to say that “several anti-aircraft missiles” had been fired from Syria during the operation, one of which was intercepted by Israeli air defenses.
Israel’s Channel Two reported that the strikes had targeted an arms shipment bound for Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah group in northern Syria.
The Syrian regime, for its part, has said that its air defenses had downed one of the Israeli jets that entered its airspace, according to the official SANA news agency.
“Syrian air defenses downed one of four Israeli warplanes that violated Syrian airspace and targeted a military site in Homs’ eastern countryside [in western Syria],” SANA quoted the Syrian Army’s General Command as saying.
According to the news agency, regime air defenses had also “struck another [Israeli] jet and forced the other two to withdraw”.
The Israeli military, however, later denied the Syrian claims, asserting that all of its fighters had “safely returned to their bases”.
“All of our aircraft returned to their bases without any threats posed by Syrian air defenses,” Israeli army spokesman Avijaa Odraei told Anadolu Agency.
Since the outbreak of the Syria conflict in 2011, Israel has occasionally struck positions inside its war-ravaged neighbor, especially after mortar shells — allegedly fired from Syrian territory — fell inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
* Mahmoud Barakat contributed to this report
[Photo: Israeli F-15 Raam aircraft practice over Nevada Training Ranges at Nellis Airforce Base, Nevada,US Photographer:GT KEVIN J. GRUENWALD, USAF. Public Domain]