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Israel launches intensive strikes in Syria after jet crashes

Israel's military forces struck pro-government and pro-Iranian forces in Syria on Saturday after an Israeli fighter jet was downed this week.

Reuters reports that Israel announced it had undertaken a number of airstrikes Saturday after it says an Iranian drone violated its airspace and an Israeli fighter jet was shot down by what Israel says was Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Both pilots survived with injuries.

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“My impression is that it seems to be contained at this point,” a Western diplomat in the region told Reuters. “I don’t think anybody wants to escalate further.”

Israel says a drone launched from a Syrian military base was shot down by Israeli forces after it crossed into Israeli airspace, a charge which both Iran and the the coalition of pro-Syrian government forces deny.

Saturday's crash occurred after at least eight Israeli fighter jets launched a retaliatory airstrike against the airfield suspected to have launched the drone.

A official who supports Syrian President Bashar Assad told Reuters that the downing of the jet was a "message" to Israel, but predicted the conflict would not escalate.

“I do not believe matters will develop to a regional war," the official said.

Experts said on Israel's Channel 11 news station that neither side wanted to appear weak, but also that war was too great of a risk for either party.

“The tough part is how to continue to walk a tightrope, where neither side wants an all-out war, but no one wants to be the one who absorbed the blow and didn’t respond appropriately,” said Uzi Rabi, director of Tel Aviv University's Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.

Israel last fought a major war with Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Islamist terror group, in 2006.

Vice President Pence visited Israel in January and took the opportunity to fault Iran for growing terror concerns in the region.

“If our allies won’t join us, President Trump has made clear we will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately,” Pence said during a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin last month.

“But we hope in the months ahead to be able to strengthen it,” Pence added.