The Israeli Prime Minister has struck a defiant tone the day after his country bombed Iranian and Syrian targets — and promised to continue to strike back against his enemies.
Benjamin Netanyahu defied Russian president Vladimir Putin’s call yesterday to calm tensions in the region — as he responded to the shooting down of an Israeli F-16 fighter jet by Syrian forces.
Speaking to ministers at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel had inflicted heavy damage on the Iranian and Syrian militaries and vowed to fight any nation that tried to hurt his country.
“Yesterday we dealt a serious blow to the armies of Iran and Syria,” he said.
“We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of engagement have not changed in any way.”
After telling his ministers that the conditions of the two pilots from the F-16 jet were improving, he made a further threat to Israel’s enemies.
“We will continue to strike back at any attempt to harm us,” he said.
“This has been our policy and will remain our policy.”
Yesterday Israel launched 12 airstrikes on targets in Syria after the Israel Defence Force (IDF) intercepted an Iranian drone that it claimed had infiltrated its airspace.
Syrian anti-aircraft forces loyal to President Assad shot down the fighter jet over northern Israel as it returned from Syria — injuring both pilots — one of them seriously.
It was Israel’s most serious engagement in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011.
The IDF said it had destroyed the Iranian launching site in Syria where the drone had come from, along with the Syrian military’s main command and control bunker as well as other key locations.
Israel has recently issued a warning to Iran about its increased involvement along its borders with Syria and Lebanon.
Today Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told national radio that the strikes had caught Iran by surprise.
“These were concealed sites,” he said, “and we have intelligence agencies and the ability to know everything that is going on there and yesterday we proved that.”
Israel has expressed fears in the past that Iran would use Syrian territory to stage attacks or transfer weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group who are backed by Tehran.
Both Iran and Hezbollah are fighting on the side of President Bashar Al Assad in the Syrian civil war.
Yesterday Iranian military chiefs pledged to “open the gates of hell” in response to Israel’s airstrikes.