The Israeli Defense Forces on Feb. 10 brought down what they identified as an Iranian UAV in Israeli territory, and a trailer. (Israel Defense Ministry)

A frontline Israeli F-16I was destroyed on Saturday after it came under heavy attack by Syrian-based anti-aircraft missiles during a round of strikes and counter-strikes prompted by an early morning breach of Israeli airspace by an Iranian UAV.

Pilots of the F-16I waited until they returned to Israeli airspace before ejecting from the single-engine fighter, which fell near a kibbutz in the central Galilee region. Both were taken to hospital, where they are being treated for injuries. It was the first time an Israeli fighter plane was destroyed by enemy action since 1982.

A picture taken on Feb. 10, 2018, shows the remains of a missile that landed in the southern Lebanese village of Kaoukaba, near the border with Syria, after Israel's military attacked 12 Syrian and Iranian targets inside Syria in what it described as
A picture taken on Feb. 10, 2018, shows the remains of a missile that landed in the southern Lebanese village of Kaoukaba, near the border with Syria, after Israel's military attacked 12 Syrian and Iranian targets inside Syria in what it described as "large-scale" raids following an exchange of fire earlier in the day. The exchange of fire was the most serious between arch foes Israel and Iran since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011. (Ali Dia/AFP/Getty Images)

In response to the extraordinary downing of an Israeli frontline fighter jet, Israel launched what a military spokesman characterized as a “broad attack” against 12 Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, including Syrian SA-17 and SA-5 anti-aircraft batteries and Iranian assets deployed in country in support of Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad.

“Twelve targets were attacked, including three Syrian air defense batteries and four targets belonging to Iran that constitute part of Iranian entrenchment in Syria,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, said Saturday.

The latest escalation beyond Israel’s northern border was prompted by an early morning infiltration into Israeli airspace by an Iranian UAV, which was tracked and ultimately downed by an Israel Air Force AH-64D Apache helicopter.

Israeli security stands around the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel, near kibbutz of Harduf, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone it said infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a
Israeli security stands around the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel, near kibbutz of Harduf, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone it said infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets inside Syria, in its most significant engagement since the fighting in neighboring Syria began in 2011. (Rami Slush/AP)

In response to the initial UAV infiltration, Israel targeted an Iranian UAV command and control trailer at a base near the Syrian capital of Damascus. When Syrian-based anti-aircraft batteries fired on the Israeli F-16 formation sent to bomb the Iranian command and control trailer, Israel launched the second, much broader wave of attacks on Syrian and Iranian assets.

“Iran is the aggressor here. They sent a UAV on a military mission, violating Israeli sovereignty. The IDF is ready for all scenarios, and urges Iran and Syria to cease aggression,” Conricus said.

All Israeli fighters returned safely from the second wave of retaliatory attack.

In response to the Feb. 10 attacks, Russia, which controls the skies in Syria where the Iranian UAV was launched and where Israel launched its own retaliatory strikes, called on “all sides” to exercise restraint. “We urge all sides to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could lead to an even greater complication of the situation, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday.

It added, ”It is necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries in the region.”