JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel activated its anti-missile defense system overnight Friday, blowing up one of several Syrian surface-to-air missiles targeting an Israel Air Force sortie. Israeli pilots were dispatched to stop a convoy delivering missiles and other weaponry to Hezbollah.
An IDF statement early Friday confirmed that its anti-missile system destroyed one of the missiles, noting that "at no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised."
According to media reports, Syrian President Bashar Assad's military fired the missiles at IAF aircraft targeting the convoy. The Syrian army later claimed it had shot down one of the planes and promised a harsh response.
Around 3:00 a.m., Israelis in the Jordan Valley and even some Jerusalemites heard the explosions and air raid sirens. Early reports assumed the rockets were launched from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) or Jordan. But the IDF quickly countered the reports, saying the explosions were actually anti-missile launches and its defense systems set off the sirens.
For years Israel has warned it would not allow Iranian weapons to reach its Lebanese-based terror proxy. There have been numbers of IAF sorties over the years, but Israel rarely takes credit for the attacks. Even before the civil war, now in its sixth year, Assad allowed Iranian weapons convoys to travel freely through Syria.
A few years into the war, Hezbollah joined forces with Assad, sending thousands of its fighters to reinforce Syrian troops.
When Russia expanded its military footprint in Syria in 2015, taking advantage of the Obama administration's tepid response to the fighting there, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a quick trip to Moscow to talk with President Putin. Presumably, the two leaders discussed Israel's commitment to defending its northern border against attacks by Hezbollah or Islamic groups in Syria, which now includes ISIS.
Israel took control of the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War, defeating Syrian tank forces against all odds.
Following the war, Israel began developing the Golan, freeing farmers in the Hula Valley from daily Syrian sniper fire. In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan.