Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of “brazenly violating Israel’s sovereignty” after the IDF intercepted a drone crossing the Israel-Syrian border.
The Israeli Prime Minister pledged that his country would defend itself against any form of attack, after a fractious 24 hours in the region.
He said Israel was “not bent on war, but we will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves”.
On Saturday, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down over the border with Syria after being hit by Syrian defence forces. The jet’s pilots ejected before it crashed and were taken to hospital in Israel.
Israeli retaliations amounted to the most serious strikes by the country against Syrian targets in recent years
The flurry of activity led to international comment, with the US State Department backing Israel’s right to self-defence and laying the blame for the skirmishes with Iran.
Vladimir Putin, Russian president, called Mr Netanyahu to war against a “dangerous escalation”, while Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, called for an immediate de-escalation amid his concerns of a “dangerous spill-over” on the Syrian border.
The episode began at around 4.25am local time on Saturday when the IDF intercepted the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle and sent a combat helicopter to intercept it. Video footage tweeted by the military shows the drone being blown up.
Within an hour, Israeli planes bombed Iranian targets in Syria, and anti-aircraft missiles were fired back, resulting in the strike on the jet. The pilots parachuted back into Israeli territory and are now being treated in hospital.
Opening the Israeli cabinet’s weekly meeting this morning, Mr Netanyahu said: “The IDF is the strongest military in the Middle East and this is a good thing because we face many challenges.
“As I also made it clear to President Trump and afterwards to European leaders and President Putin, our presence here is the main element in the Middle East blocking the spread of radical Islam, led by Iran and Islamic State which also threaten all other elements in the world.
“We are not bent on war, but we will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves."
In an earlier statement on Saturday night, he blamed Iran for the “aggression” which had led to the clashes.
Mr Netanyahu said: “I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran's military entrenchment in Syria. Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel, for its professed goal of destroying Israel.
“This morning, Iran brazenly violated Israel's sovereignty. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel. And this demonstrates that our warnings were 100 per cent correct.
“Israel holds Iran and its Syrian host responsible for today's aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”
Mr Putin and Mr Netanyahu met a fortnight ago and discussed the ongoing military operations in Syria.
WATCH: Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Israel after border clashes