IAF F-16 fighter jet (archive)
IAF F-16 fighter jet (archive) IDF spokesperson

The pilot of a downed F-16 fighter jet described the terrifying moment on Saturday when he realized that he would have to abandon his airplane after being hit by a Syrian surface-to-air missile.

On Saturday, the IAF identified an unmanned Iranian aircraft entering Israeli airspace. The aircraft remained in Israeli airspace for a minute and a half before being shot down. In response, four IAF F-16I attacked the drone's control center deep in Syria. While they were operating, Syria fired dozens of surface-to-air missiles, hitting one of the F-16I fighters and forcing the pilot and navigator to eject once they reached Israeli territory.

Hadashot quoted the pilot's testimony in the after-action report describing the dramatic moments above northern Israel on Saturday morning. "We heard an explosion and realized we were hit. It's a very uncomfortable feeling, this loss of control," said the pilot.

"This is not a long process and there is no time. Just a few seconds. You have the understanding that we must be quick and abandon [the jet] because we suffered physical injury and also because the plane had been hit and stopped functioning."

"The missile exploded at some distance from the jet but still caused the plane significant damage," recalled the pilot. "Luck also played a part here... the force of the blast could have killed us."

Both crew members managed to bail out of the plane before it crashed, and were recovered by Israeli rescue teams.