WASHINGTON – the Trump administration and the UN secretary general offered different cautionary tales in reaction to a sharp military escalation between IDF forces and Iranian proxies on Israel’s northern border.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Saturday night, warned “Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace.” An unmanned aerial vehicle understood to be Iranian entered Israeli airspace on Friday night, prompting an Israeli air campaign against assets in Syria that led to the downing of an Israel Air Force jet.
“Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria, said Sanders. “We call on Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres did not mention Iran, but did call the current situation “alarming.”
“The latest events come as the Syrian people suffer through one of the most violent periods in nearly seven years of conflict. Over 1,000 civilian casualties from air strikes were reported in the first week of February alone,” Guterres said. “The secretary-general stresses once again that all concerned in Syria and the region have a responsibility and must abide by international law and relevant Security Council resolutions. He calls on all to work for an immediate and unconditional de-escalation of violence and exercise restraint.”
On Saturday morning, an Iranian drone took off from the Tiyas Military Air Base, aka the T4 Air Base, deep in the Syrian province of Homs. The drone was spotted by Israel, and residents across the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley were woken by air raid sirens that sounded when an Israel Air Force Apache attack helicopter intercepted the unmanned aerial vehicle near Beit She’an.
In response, Israeli jets took off to strike the drone’s launch site, and were met by massive Syrian antiaircraft fire. The two crew members of one of the Israeli F-16s saw that one missile had locked onto their aircraft, and they ejected from the jet, which crashed near Kibbutz Harduf in the Lower Galilee.
The crew, one of whom was in severe condition with abdominal injuries, were evacuated to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.
The incident was viewed as a significant event by the IDF, which warned that the Iranians and Syrians were “playing with fire.”
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.