JERUSALEM — Syria says it shot down one Israeli military jet and hit another.
Israel, however, says all of its aircraft returned safely after conducting airstrikes on several targets in Syria Friday morning.
Israel did not say what was targeted, but Syria says Israeli jets attacked a military target near Palmyra in what Damascus described as an act of aggression that aided Islamic State.
In a rare move, the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF, issued a statement acknowledging the operation.
“Overnight, March 17, IAF aircrafts targeted several targets in Syria,” the statement said. “Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and the IDF aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles. At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised.”
Air raid sirens alerted residents in Israel’s Jordan Valley to the early Friday morning aerial activities.
The firing of missiles from Syria toward Israeli aircraft is extremely rare, though Israeli military officials said there was a shoulder-fired missile a few months ago.
Missile defense system kicked in
Israeli Channel 10 TV reported that Israel deployed its Arrow defense system for the first time against a real threat and hit an incoming missile, intercepting it before it exploded in Israel.
The Arrow is mainly designed for ballistic missiles. It is part of what Israel calls its “multilayer missile defense” comprised of different systems meant to protect against short- and long-range threats, including the thousands of missiles possessed by Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon and rockets used by Hamas and other Islamic militant groups in Gaza.
Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering mostly sporadic incidents of spillover fire over the frontier that Israel has generally dismissed as tactical errors by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces. Israel has responded to these cases lightly, with limited reprisals on Syrian positions in response to the errant fire.