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Tehran Slams Israel's Claim of Downing Iranian Drone as 'Ridiculous'

Tehran Slams Israel's Claim of Downing Iranian Drone as 'Ridiculous'

"Israel wants peace but we will continue to defend ourselves with determination against any attack on us and against any attempt by Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria or anywhere else", Netanyahu said in a filmed statement from the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, adding that Israel "holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today's aggression".

As the hours tick by, the view is gaining ground that the today's penetration of Israeli air space by an Iranian drone aircraft was not by chance, and that the Iranians were out to test the strength of an Israeli response to such an incident, and, even more so, the response of Russian Federation. "The Syrians are playing with fire when they allow the Iranians to attack Israel from their soil". Though the area remained quiet for decades, it has become a growing flash point in Syria's war. In a statement, it said Israel had targeted an air base in the Homs desert that is being used to fly drones in missions against Islamic State.

Hezbollah said Saturday that the downing of the Israeli F-16 jet by the Syrian army marked the "start of a new strategic phase", which would limit Israeli exploitation of Syrian airspace. The pilots ejected and survived the incident.

Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was now holding an emergency meeting with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

An Israeli F-16 jet that crashed in northern Israel on Saturday had been hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile, an Israeli official confirmed.

The Russian foreign ministry said it was seriously concerned by the latest developments in Syria and called for restraint.

Saturday's crash occurred after at least eight Israeli fighter jets launched a retaliatory airstrike against the airfield suspected to have launched the drone.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, "We consider it necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries of the region".

The prime minister said that he has been warning for months about the dangers of Iran's military entrenchment in Syria.

Israel has repeatedly warned in recent weeks against the presence of Iranian forces in neighbouring Syria.

As the Israeli planes came under attack, two F-16 pilots made a decision to eject, and their plane crashed in Israel's Galilee region, Conricus said.

State television stations also said that sounds of explosions believed to be from Israeli attacks were heard in the Damascus countryside.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said an arms depot that apparently belonged to "Hezbollah" was hit and exploded.

Iran, meanwhile, denounced the news of successful Israeli strikes as "lies" and said Syria had the right to self-defense in response to Israeli strikes.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied the drone had strayed into Israeli airspace and rejected as "laughable" reports that Israel had intercepted a drone launched from Syria.