The Israeli military said Monday it struck and destroyed an antiaircraft battery deep in Syria after the installation had opened fire on Israeli jets flying over Lebanon — the first such incident of Syrian forces targeting Israeli planes since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israeli planes were on a routine reconnaissance mission near the Lebanese-Syrian border when they came under fire. They were not hit and returned to base safely, he said.
In response, Israel hit a Syrian antiaircraft battery about 30 miles east of Damascus and “incapacitated” it, he said. Russian forces in Syria were notified in real time, Conricus said, adding that Israel holds Syria responsible for any attack from its territory.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in Syria but it has carried out dozens of airstrikes on alleged arms shipments bound for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. It has also occasionally carried out limited reprisals along its frontier with Syria in the Golan Heights, after spillover of Syria’s fighting.
But such a strike deep in Syrian territory is highly unusual.
Conricus said Israel has no interest in destabilizing the situation but added that the military will “preserve our ability to act and thwart” any hostile activity against it.
The Syrian army denounced the Israeli strike as a hostile act and said in a statement that the Israeli warplanes in Monday’s attack entered Syrian airspace from the direction of eastern Lebanon.
“The General Command of the Army and Armed Forces warns of the dangerous repercussions of these repeated hostile attempts by Israel,” the Syrian military said.
7:30 a.m.: This article has been updates with a statement from the Syrian army
This article was originally published at 3:50 a.m.