Israel shot down an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile with the Arrow defense battery early Friday morning, military officials said, in the first reported use of the advanced system.
At approximately 2:30 a.m., Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said, prompting the Syrian attempt to down the Israeli jets.
“Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles,” the army said in a statement.
The Arrow is primarily designed to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, intercepting the weapons and their nuclear, biological or chemical warheads close to their launch sites.
Therefore its use against a surface-to-air missile was somewhat odd and may indicate a misidentification of the type of weapon being fired from Syria.
Photos of what appear to be the intercepted missile quickly began circulating on social media.
The IDF said neither civilians on the ground nor Israeli Air Force pilots were in any danger at any point during the incident.
According to Arab media, the target of the IAF strikes was a Hezbollah weapons convoy.
Friday’s attack was somewhat rare, in that the Israeli military does not generally admit to carrying out specific actions in Syria. Though Israel has acknowledged that it does attack such convoys traveling from the war-wracked country to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The launch of the IDF’s Arrow missile set off the country’s rocket alert system at 2:43 a.m.
The most advanced version, The Arrow 3, which Israel has been developing with the United States since 2008, is a major part of the multi-layered air defense array that Israel has designed to protect itself against a range of missile threats — from short-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, to longer-range threats like a missile launch from Iran.
At least two distinct explosions were heard as far west and south as Jerusalem.
The sirens sounded near the Jordan Valley communities of Gitit, Mesoa, Yitav and Yafit in the Arvot Hayarden regional council, which straddles the Jordan River in the West Bank.
IDF ground forces in the area launched a search for fallen rockets and rocket fragments in the mountainous terrain.