Syria launched anti-aircraft missiles toward Israeli jets Friday after a series of attacks by the Israeli air force.
At least one of the missiles was intercepted midair by the Israeli anti-missile system Arrow, in the first reported use of the system. It marks the most serious incident between the two countries since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war six years ago, according to analysts.
“Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles,” the Israel Defense Forces reported in a statement. “The safety of the forces and Israeli civilians were not compromised.”
The rare statement did not specify which targets were attacked. Arab media reported that the target of Israel’s strikes was a Hezbollah weapons convoy heading toward Lebanon.
At approximately 3 a.m. local time, warning sirens sounded in the Jordan Valley and in the West Bank. Several moments later, two loud explosions were heard in Jerusalem. Only three hours later, the Israeli army spokesman issued the statement.
A Syrian military statement said four Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace — flying into Syria through Lebanese territory — and targeted a military position in central Syria. It said Syrian anti-aircraft systems confronted the planes and claimed one of the jets was shot down in Israeli-controlled territory and that another was hit, a claim Israel denied.
This would not the first time the Israeli air force has targeted weapons convoys in Syria headed for Hezbollah — Iran’s proxy group in Lebanon. Israeli officials have repeatedly vowed to take any necessary action to prevent weapons shipments from Iran to Hezbollah via Syrian territory.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled five times to Russia to meet with his counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, making sure Russia complied with Israeli interests in the region. In Fall 2016, Russia agreed to let Israel continue defending itself, and preventing any accidental clashes.