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Netanyahu Vows To Defend Israel Against Iran


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (file photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country wants peace but will continue to defend itself against Iran.

His comments on February 10 came after antiaircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria.

Netanyahu said he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I reiterated to him our obligation and right to defend ourselves against attacks from Syrian territory. We agreed coordination between our armies would continue," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu added that he had spoken with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The United States "strongly supports" Israel's right to defend itself, the State Department spokeswoman later said.

"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," Heather Nauert said.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the Israeli strikes in Syria and urged the sides to avoid escalating the situation.

The Israeli military said its planes struck 12 targets on February 10, including three air-defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria.

The attack came after Israel said it shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country. An Israeli F-16 was subsequently hit by Syrian antiaircraft fire and crashed in northern Israel.

The Israeli military said one of its pilots had been seriously wounded after the warplane came under Syrian fire. A second pilot was lightly wounded.

An Israeli military spokesman said Iran was "playing with fire" by infiltrating Israeli airspace and would pay a heavy price.

Iran rejected Israel’s version of the events as "ridiculous" and "lies," saying Syria had the right to defend itself in response to the strikes.

The Syrian military and its allies denied the unmanned drone Israel says it shot down violated the Jewish state's airspace, saying it was on a regular mission to gather intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Iran and Russia support the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s nearly seven-year civil war. The United States and Turkey back differing rebel groups fighting Assad’s government.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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