The Israeli Air Force shot down a Syrian fighter jet that traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace on Tuesday afternoon, the military said. Syrian state-run media confirmed the jet was shot down but said it was inside its own airspace.
“Two Patriot missiles were fired at a Syrian Sukhoi-model fighter jet,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. The IDF said the aircraft was monitored as it approached the border with the Golan Heights.
“It penetrated two kilometers into Israeli airspace and was shot down,” the army said. According to Sky News Arabia, the plane crashed inside southwest Syria, in the Yarmouk Basin, an area still under the control of the Islamic State terrorist group. It was not immediately clear if the pilots ejected before the fighter jet was shot down or what their condition was.
The official Syrian news outlet SANA claimed the plane was inside Syrian airspace at the time it was targeted. According to SANA, Israel fired at “one of our war planes, which are leveling terrorist encampments in the Saida region on the outskirts of the Yarmouk Basin, in Syrian airspace.”
A military source quoted by SANA accused Israel of aiding “terrorists” in the country’s southwest, where the Syrian air force has been conducting extensive bombing raids throughout the day against a number of opposition groups.
This was the first time that Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet since 2014, when another Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet entered Israeli airspace and was targeted with a Patriot missile.
It was not immediately clear if the plane was a Sukhoi-22 or a Sukhoi-24, two different types of Russian-made fighter jets in use by the Syrian Air Force, the Israeli military said.
The IDF said it had noticed increased air force activity in southwestern Syria, near the border, since the morning.
“We have issued numerous warnings through numerous channels and in various languages to make sure that no one on the other side violates Israeli airspace or threatens Israeli civilians or sovereignty,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.
Israel stressed that it will continue to enforce the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which requires Syria to abide by a demilitarized zone between the two countries
Minutes before the plane was shot down, Syria’s state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV was broadcasting footage from the fence demarcating the UN buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces inside the Golan Heights. A UN observer post could be seen just on the other side of the fence. source