ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran, Israel’s regional arch-enemy, rejected as “ridiculous” reports that Israel had intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria on Saturday, state TV reported.
Separately, a Revolutionary Guards’ official said he could not confirm the report because Israelis were “liars”.
Israel said it launched air strikes against air defences and Iranian targets in Syria on Saturday and the Syrian army claimed to have hit an Israeli F-16 that crashed in northern Israel in a major escalation of tension.
“Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous,” state TV quoted Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.
Shi’ite-dominated Iran is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main regional ally and denies having any conventional armed forces in Syria, though it has acknowledged having military advisers and volunteers from its elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Syria.
“Iran only provides military advice to Syria based on the request of the country’s legitimate government,” Qasemi said.
The Israeli military said the F-16 jet crashed during a mission to strike Iranian drone installations in Syria, where Iranian and Iran-backed forces have established a major foothold while fighting in support of Assad.
Israel said it had sent its jets into Syria after shooting down an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory on Saturday. Israel said its warplanes came under fire in Syria, though it was still unclear why the jet had come down.
“Syria’s legitimate government has every right to defend its soil and territory against any foreign aggressor,” Qasemi said, state TV reported.
Earlier the deputy head of Iran’s IRGC declined to comment on the reports, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
“We cannot confirm this report on the drone because Israelis are liars … if Syrians confirm it, Iran will confirm it as well,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami said.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Richard Balmforth)