Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli aircraft carried out several strikes on Syria overnight, prompting the launch of ground-to-air missiles in response, one of which was intercepted, the army said on Friday.
It was the most serious incident between the two countries, which remain technically at war, since civil war broke out in Syria in March 2011.
"Overnight... aircraft targeted several targets in Syria," an Israeli army statement said.
"Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and (army) aerial defence systems intercepted one of the missiles."
None of the missiles hit their targets, the army added.
Both Israeli and foreign media have reported Israeli air strikes inside Syria targeting arms convoys of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel and is now fighting alongside the Damascus regime.
But normally Israel makes no official comment.
The missile fire prompted air raid sirens to go off in the Jordan Valley during the night, the Israeli army said.
The missile was intercepted north of Jerusalem by Israel's Arrow air defence system, Israeli media reported.
Russia summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Gary Koren to provide clarifications Friday, less than 24 hours after Israel struck targets in Syria, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement explaining the reasoning behind the operation.
Moscow is heavily involved in Syria and strongly supports the regime of President Bashar Assad. Assad’s forces fired missiles at the Israeli jets overnight after the latter struck what Jerusalem said was a weapons convoy destined for the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.
Netanyahu said Israel would continue to target weapon convoys.
“Our policy is very consistent,” he stated in a Hebrew language video released to the press. “When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah — when we have the intel and the operational capability — we act to prevent it. That’s how we’ve acted and how we will continue to act…and everyone needs to take this into account. Everyone.”
Assad’s army said the Israeli strikes were conducted to support “[Islamic State] terrorist gangs and in a desperate attempt to raise their deteriorating morale and divert attention away from the victories which Syrian Arab Army is making in the face of the terrorist organizations,” the statement read.
The firing of missiles from Syria toward Israeli aircraft is extremely rare, though Israeli military officials reported a shoulder-fired missile a few months ago.
Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations.