Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel's military carried out an air strike on an anti-aircraft battery in Syria on Monday after it fired at its planes, while vowing it sought no further escalation in the war-torn country.
Israeli planes were on what the military described as a "routine reconnaissance mission" over neighbouring Lebanon when an anti-aircraft missile was fired in their direction, a military spokesman said.
The planes returned safely, according to the spokesman, adding it believed the anti-aircraft battery in Syria was destroyed.
Syria's military said Israel's air force had violated the country's air space, causing it to respond with its air defences.
It claimed one of the Israeli planes was hit, "forcing it to flee".
Israel then "launched several missiles... on one of our military positions in the Damascus region, causing only material damage," Syrian state television quoted the military as saying.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists: "We hold the Syrian regime responsible for the anti-aircraft fire and any attack originating from Syria."
Syria's military, for its part, said it "warns against the dangerous consequences of repeated attempts at aggression by Israel".
Conricus did not specify how many Israeli planes were involved in the mission over Lebanon, but said they were "in proximity to the Syrian border".
The battery targeted was located some 50 kilometres (31 miles) east of Damascus, he said.
It was believed to be the first time since Syria's civil war began in 2011 that Israeli planes were targeted while in Lebanese airspace, said Conricus.
However, he said Israel had "no intention to destabilise the situation".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later said: "We will continue to act in the region when it is required to ensure Israel's security...
"Our policy is clear: Those who wish to attack us will be attacked by us."
- Russian visit -
Israel has sought to avoid becoming more directly involved in the six-year civil war in Syria, though it acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes to stop what it calls advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.
The Lebanese Shiite group, against which Israel fought a devastating 2006 war, is militarily backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the conflict.
In March, Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria, drawing retaliatory missile fire, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the start of the war.
At the time, Netanyahu said the air strikes targeted weapons bound for Hezbollah.
Syria's military had said it launched anti-aircraft missiles at the aircraft, claiming it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they carried out pre-dawn strikes near the desert city of Palmyra.
Israel denied any of its aircraft was hit.
During the sortie, Israel fired its Arrow interceptor to take out what was believed to have been a Russian-made SA 5 missile.
In the aftermath, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to destroy Syrian air defence systems "without the slightest hesitation" if they fired on Israeli planes in future.
Monday's strike came ahead of the start of a visit to Israel later the same day by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu whose country is a key backer of the Assad regime and carries out frequent air strikes.
Russia and Israel have established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
"The Russians were notified in real time," Conricus said of the strike.
Shoigu and Lieberman were expected to discuss Syria and Iran's presence there.
Iran, Israel's main enemy, also backs Assad and Israel is concerned that Tehran will establish a permanent military presence along its border.