Israel launches offensive against Iranian targets in Syria

The Israeli military says it has shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country and has struck Iranian targets in Syria that launched it. As part of the unusual event early Saturday, the country's military says that one of its F-16 jets crashed in northern Israel.

Israel says the pilots abandoned the aircraft, though one was severely injured. It says sirens sounded in northern Israel as a result of the anti-aircraft fire from Syria.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Iran was "responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty.''

Syria state TV says its air defences have responded to new Israeli raids near the capital Damascus, following an earlier raid in the country's centre.

The TV broadcaster said sounds of explosions were heard Saturday in Reef Damascus province, near the capital. The state news agency SANA said air defences responded to a "new Israeli aggression.''  

That operation continued throughout the day in the country, with Israel's military describing its operation as a "large scale attack'' against Iranian targets in Syria.  Missile-launches were reported both in central Syria and in the southwestern suburbs of the Syrian capital city, Damascus.

Russia's foreign ministry is expressing concern over the missile strikes, and is urging the sides to avoid escalating the situation.

In a statement Saturday, the ministry said "of particular concern is the danger of escalation of tension within and around de-escalation zones in Syria, the creation of which has become an important factor in reducing violence on Syrian soil.''

"We urge all parties involved to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could lead to an even greater complication of the situation. We consider it necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries of the region. It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,'' the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is protesting Israel's use of its airspace to target Syria, saying it will complain to the U.N. Security Council. Lebanon's news agency says a missile, apparently from the Syrian air defence, has landed in a lemon grove in a village in southwestern Lebanon.