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Backing Israel, WH warns Iran to stop 'provocative actions'

Backing Israel, WH warns Iran to stop 'provocative actions'
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The White House is standing behind Israel after a Syrian missile brought down an Israeli F-16.

In a statement, the White House called Israel a "staunch ally" while warning Iran to cease "provocative actions" in the region.

“Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria,” the White House said in a statement. "We call on Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE's White House has maintained close ties to Israel while directing heavy criticism at Iran, repeatedly accusing the country of violating the terms of the nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration.

The latest tensions come after Israel dispatched at least eight planes in response to what it said was an Iranian drone’s incursion into its airspace. One of the planes, an Israeli F-16, was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, according to Reuters. Both pilots suffered injuries.

In retaliation, Israel launched an air raid that hit 12 Iranian and Syrian targets within Syria.

Israel fears that Iran could use Syrian territory to transfer weapons more easily to Hezbollah — an Iranian-backed Islamist terror group — or to launch attacks on Israel.

Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Israel was alarmed when Iran-backed forces were deployed near Israel.

Hezbollah said the downed plane signals a new phase of a strategy aimed at restricting Israel’s access to Syrian airspace. Israel and Syria have said they are not seeking a wider conflict, Reuters reported.

“Israel seeks peace but we will continue to defend ourselves steadfastly against any attack against us or any attempt by Iran to establish itself against us in Syria,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement according to Reuters.