AFP-JijiWASHINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — The United States backed Israel for its strikes on what the Jewish state called Iranian positions inside Syria on Saturday, blaming Iran for escalating violence in the war-wracked country.
Israel’s raids came after it intercepted what it said was an Iranian drone entering its airspace from Syria, calling it an “attack.”
“The United States is deeply concerned about today’s escalation of violence over Israel’s border and strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“Iran’s calculated escalation of threat, and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the region — from Yemen to Lebanon — at risk,” Nauert said.
“The U.S. continues to push back on the totality of Iran’s malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability.”
The confrontation was the first time Israel has publicly acknowledged targeting what it identified as Iranian positions in Syria since the conflict started.
Iran denounced Israeli “lies” and said Syria had the right to self-defense in response to the strikes.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Saturday not to allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria, after Israel launched air raids on what it said were Iranian targets in its Arab neighbor.
“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,” he said.
Netanyahu’s remarks came as he convened his security chiefs for consultations on Saturday’s confrontations which followed Israel’s interception of what it said was an Iranian drone launched from Syria.
Israel then launched air attacks on the drone’s control systems, with Syrian anti-air fire bringing down an F-16 fighter in northern Israel.
The Israeli air force launched a further series of strikes targeting what it said were Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria.
“Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”
Iran, for its part, denounced Israeli “lies” and said Syria had the right to “legitimate self-defense” in response to airstrikes launched by Israel.
The Israeli leader said he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin whose country supports the Syrian regime.
“I reiterated our right and duty to defend ourselves against attacks from Syrian territory,” Netanyahu said, adding that the two leaders agreed to continue their coordination on Syria.