As the U.S. and other Middle Eastern partners went to work bombing ISIS in Syria overnight, on the other side of the embattled country a Syrian fighter jet reportedly strayed over the Israeli border, prompting Israeli defense forces to fire a Patriot missile that downed the Syrian fighter jet.
Israel said the Syrian warplane emerged from over the Syrian civil war battle zones and flew into Israeli airspace above the Golan Heights, perhaps accidentally, before being shot down.
While not linked with the U.S. and Gulf Arab attacks on ISIS on the other side of Syria, the downing of the Syrian jet may complicate Israel’s wish to avoid becoming embroiled in the multiple battle fronts between multiple factions, particularly the ones just over its border with Syria that include where the al Qaeda associated Nusra Front rebels.
According to the Israeli military, they incorporated their U.S.-made Patriot missile air defense system when the Syrian, Russian-built, Sukhoi fighter jet “infiltrated Israeli airspace” over the Golan Heights, which has been Israeli territory since they absorbed it in the 1967 Middle East war.
The downing of the Syrian warplane by Israel was the first such incident in the last 30 years, and Syrian officials quickly labeled Israel’s shooting the warplane down an act of aggression.
The Syrian fighter had been on a bombing mission in areas around a Syrian town called Quneitra, near the Israeli-held side of the frontier, when the Patriot missile took it out, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The pilot of the Syrian jet, and possibly another, were also able to bail out of the plane, said the group.
“(Israel) will not allow any element, neither a state nor a terrorist group, to threaten our security and violate our sovereignty,” said Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, regarding Israel’s action.
Alluding to the possibility that the Syrian jet may have crossed into Israeli air space accidentally, Yaalon also noted that Israel would act strongly in the face of perceived threats, “whether they stemmed from a mistake or were deliberate.”
Russia, meanwhile, seemed not at all pleased by the incident, reports RT, their Foreign Ministry saying Moscow was “deeply concerned” by Israel’s action, and that it “exacerbates an already tense situation.”
“We are calling for all countries in the region and beyond to show maximum restraint,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry statement, concluding that it was important not to open a new “front” for conflict but to come together to avoid that situation.
Along with several other Israeli responses to “spillover” fighting between the Syrian Army and rebels in the Golan Heights area, Israel also took out a Syrian drone over the Golan with a Patriot missile at the end of August.
Image via The Times of Israel/AFP/JALAA MAREY