Overnight there was an exchange of fire between Israel and the Syrian/Iranian regime.

It started when an Iranian drone, launched from central Syria near Homs, crossed into Israeli airspace and was brought down by an Israeli attack helicopter.

Israel then retaliated with an attack on the control building that launched and controlled the drone, reportedly killing the Iranians stationed there. Syria launched an intensive surface-to-air missile (SAM) barrage, reportedly the Russian-made S200 missiles, that brought down an Israeli F-16 over Israeli territory. Both pilots ejected and are in the hospital in Israel, one reportedly in serious condition.

The pilots apparently ejected once the missile had “locked” on the plane:

The pilots of one of the Israeli F16s recognized that one missile had locked onto their aircraft and the two pilots ejected from the jet, which crashed in the lower Galilee.

This video, released by the IDF, shows the takedown of the drone and the destruction of the Iranian command post:

Haaretz reports on the counter-attack against Syrian and Iranian positions:

Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, second in command of Israel’s Air Force, said Saturday that the Israeli strike in Syria Saturday morning – after an Israeli F-16 was shot down – was “the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted againt Syrian air defenses” since the 1982 Lebanon War.

The Israeli military said it has struck 12 targets in Syria, which included four Syrian air-defense battaries and four Iranian sites after the F-16I crashed. The fighter jet was one of the planes sent to attack in Syria in response to the drone incursion earlier on Saturday.

Bar also said the Iranian drone that was shot down by an Israeli helicopter was an advanced model with a low signature, and was captured. “It is a significant achievement to have such an advanced drone,” he said, “and the first time we managed to put our hands on one.”

The Iranian provocation may have been a set-up, figuring there would be some Israeli response, and the SAM missiles were ready to fire what reportedly was the largest SAM barrage since 1982.

The incident appears to be part of Iran’s strategy to stop Israeli attacks on missile and other facilities, which have taken place several dozen times in recent years to try to prevent Syria from acquiring nuclear weapons and Iran passing along ‘game-changing’ weapons to Hezbollah.

The Jerusalem Post reports on Hezbollah’s claim there are new ground rules:

Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Saturday that the downing of an Israeli F-16 jet by Syrian forces marks a “new strategic phase” that the group says will limit “Israeli exploitation” of Syrian airspace.

“Today’s developments mean the old equations have categorically ended,” the heavily-armed Shi’ite Muslim movement said in a statement. Hezbollah is part of a military alliance supporting President Bashar Assad.

Iran sang the same tune:

A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said the Syrian response was “a clear warning to Israel. The era of Israeli strikes on Syria is over.” He vowed a “relentless response” to “all further aggression.”

Peter Lerner, former IDF Spokesperson, observed these significant elements:

1. First direct Iranian operation against Israel.
2. Iran and its proxies are preparing the battlefield of a future war.
3. Iranians in Syria means there are plenty targets for the IDF, the counter strike shows that Israel has operable intelligence.

Chemi Shalev points out that the image of the Israeli downed plane is a huge public relations victory for the Iranians:

No matter how severe the damage that the Israel Air Force is inflicting on Iranian installation and Syrian air defenses, the searing image of the day is that of the remains of the F-16I fighter, which crashed near Kibbutz Harduf in the Lower Galilee. If initial reports that the $50 million jet was brought down by an anti-aircraft missile are borne out, it would mark the first successful Syrian interception of an Israeli fighter since the 1982 Lebanon War. Given the near-invincibility of Israeli jet fighters in scores of sorties carried out in Syria and Lebanon in recent years, the images of the downed Israeli aircraft are bound to be portrayed as a historic Syrian victory over Zionist forces. It goes without saying that the situation would have been a hundred times worse had the pilots ejected over Syrian territory and taken prisoner by local forces.

This all has to be viewed as part of the increasing Iranian efforts to move their troops and proxies right up to the Israeli-Syrian border, to set the stage for future attacks. Iran’s proxy Hezbollah already controls the Israeli-Lebanese border.

[This post has been updated and expanded multiple times.]