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Israel hits Syrian anti-aircraft battery after planes targeted

The incident is unusual, given its publication by Israel, which rarely provides such details
A picture taken on 6 October 2017 shows part of an Israeli military base situated on the top of Mount Vital in the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights near Quneitra (AFP)

Israel's military said on Monday it carried out an air strike on an anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after Syria fired toward its planes.

Israeli planes were on what the military described as a routine reconnaissance mission over neighbouring Lebanon when an anti-aircraft missile was fired in their direction, a military spokesman said. 

"We know according to our intelligence it was a battery controlled by the Syrian regime and we hold the Syrian regime responsible for the fire," Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists.

There was no immediate comment from Syria which, while an old enemy of Israel, has rarely traded blows with it directly since a 1974 ceasefire ended their last conventional war.

Monday's incident was additionally unusual given its publication by Israel, which rarely gives details on its air force activities over Lebanon and Syria to foil suspected arms transfers to Hezbollah.

The planes returned safely, according to the spokesman, adding it was believed that the anti-aircraft battery in Syria was destroyed.

Israel's military said it had no intention to escalate the situation further.

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Israel has sought to avoid becoming more directly involved in the six-year civil war in neighbouring Syria, although it acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes to stop what it calls advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

The number of Israeli attacks on such convoys since 2012 is approaching triple digits, Major General Amir Eshel, the outgoing commander of the Israeli air force, told Haaretz.

The Lebanese Shia group is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's side in the conflict. 

Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating war in 2006.

Lebanon has repeatedly complained to the UN about Israel’s violations of its airspace.

Monday's strike comes with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu due to visit Israel later in the day. Russia is also backing Assad in the Syrian conflict.

Russia and Israel have established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.

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