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UN Chief Calls for Immediate De-Escalation in Syria

UN Chief Calls for Immediate De-Escalation in SyriaUN Chief Calls for Immediate De-Escalation in Syria

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for an immediate de-escalation in Syria after Israel carried out raids inside the war-torn country.

Guterres is "following closely the alarming military escalation throughout Syria and the dangerous spillover across its borders," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement, AFP reported.

Israel targeted what it claimed were Iranian positions inside Syria after one of its warplanes was hit by Syrian air defenses and crashed.

An Israeli F16 fighter jet crashed in Israel on Saturday after the jet violated Syrian airspace. Israel had tried to bomb a site used against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

The two crew from the crashed F16 were alive after ejecting, although one was severely wounded, the military said.

They landed inside Israel and were taken to hospital.

The Israeli raids came after it intercepted what it said was an Iranian drone entering its airspace.

Iran has denied the Israeli report, saying Syria has the right to defend itself against any aggression. 

Guterres stressed that all concerned in Syria and in the region must abide by international law.

"He calls on all to work for an immediate and unconditional de-escalation of violence and exercise restraint," Dujarric said.

The Syrian people are suffering "one of the most violent periods in nearly seven years of conflict," said the UN statement.

"Over 1,000 civilian casualties from airstrikes were reported in the first week of February alone."

Guterres urged the parties to move quickly toward a political solution to end the war.

Israel's Ambassador Danny Danon called on the Security Council "to condemn this dangerous act and to put an immediate end to [alleged] Iranian provocations."

Diplomats, however, said there were no immediate plans to convene a council meeting despite the sharp rise in tensions.

The council is due to discuss the crisis in Syria on Wednesday.

The US State Department said it "strongly supports Israel's sovereign right to defend itself", calling "for an end to Iranian behavior that [allegedly] threatens peace and stability".

Russia's foreign ministry urged "restraint" by all parties, adding it was "unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian soldiers" in Syria.

Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah in a separate statement said the F16's downing marked the start of a "new strategic era".

Israel is technically at war with Syria and occupies a swathe of the strategic Golan Heights that it seized in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.

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