July 24, 2018
IDF says plane crashed on Syrian side of Golan Heights as Syria battles Isis forces near Israeli border
Israel shoots down Syrian fighter jet that it says entered airspace
Israel has shot down a Syrian warplane that it claimed had penetrated its airspace, the military said, in a rare strike that could provoke tensions as Syrian forces fight to retake ground close to Israeli-held territory.
The military said in a statement that two surface-to-air Patriot missiles were launched at a Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet, which it said had penetrated its airspace by about 2 kilometres (1.25 miles).
“It was shot down and it crashed,” Israeli military spokesman Lieut-Col Jonathan Conricus told reporters, adding that the aircraft likely fell into Syrian territory.
“We do not have any information so far about the pilots. I do not know of any reports of parachutes being spotted, and we do not know if any pilots have been retrieved,” he said.
Sirens were heard across the occupied Golan Heights, near the Syria frontier and Israeli media said residents saw missiles’ contrails and the sound of explosions.
It is the first time Israel has shot down a Syrian fighter jet since 2014, although this year it has hit what it says are Syrian drones breaching its airspace, possibly by accident.
Since mid-June, Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have been conducting a deadly bombing campaign close to the Golan Heights.
Israel captured the 460 sq mile- (1,200 sq km) plateau from Syria in 1967 and still occupies the area, remaining in a protracted state of war with its neighbour. The United Nations deployed a peacekeeping force between the two sides in 1974 and established a buffer zone.
Syria still claims the entire Golan Heights, and its state television said on Tuesday the downed aircraft had not left its skies. It said the jet had been attacking militants and condemned Israel for aiding its enemies.
“Israel proves it backs armed terror groups and targeted a Syrian military plane that was bombing those groups in Syrian airspace near the Yarmouk River valley,” the statement said. The Yarmouk River runs through Syria, Israel and Jordan.
The Syrian section crosses an area that has been under the control of Islamic State militants. Retaking Quneitra and Deraa provinces would return all of south-west Syria to President Bashar al-Assad, including the frontier with Israel-held territory.
Another state-run Syrian channel said on Tuesday that government forces had already reached the frontier. Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast footage from the fence demarcating the buffer zone and an Israeli observation post several hundred metres away.
As the fighting nears, Israel has become involved. On Monday, the Israeli army said it fired interceptor missiles at two incoming Syrian rockets that were launched as part of the internal fighting. However, the rockets landed in Syrian-held territory.
Israel says it wants to avoid a confrontation as the battle approaches. However, its airforce has repeatedly bombed Iranian troops that have been sent to Syria to help Assad finish the war.
Earlier this year, Syria downed an Israeli fighter jet that was on a mission to bombing bases in Syria, a retaliation to what Israel said was an Iranian drone entering its territory.
Benjamin Netanyahu met the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Jerusalem on Monday where the Israeli prime minister sought assurances that Iran would not establish a foothold in Syria, especially near Israel.
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