Israel Downs Syrian Jet in Golan Heights (VIDEO)
An Israeli Patriot surface-to-air missile shot down a Syrian warplane that entered Israeli airspace over Quneitra in the eastern Golan Heights early Tuesday, the IDF confirmed.
“We will not let anyone – a state or a terror group – threaten our security and violate our sovereignty,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in comment on the incident, army radio said.
The aircraft behaved in a “threatening manner and even crossed the border,” Ya’alon said.
The Sukhoi SU-24, which was flying at between 10,000 to 14,000 feet, entered 800 meters into Israeli airspace and was heading back towards Syrian airspace when it was hit within a minute and 20 seconds of being identified, Israel Radio said.
“This jet could have reached the center of the country within a short time. In under a minute, it would have been over Lake Kinneret, and within five minutes, it could have gotten to any place,” an air force officer said. “This decision is in line with our policy of intercepting all intrusions into our air space,” he said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
While the Syrian government was angry over the downing, opposition forces were happy to hear the news, with one exiled leader in Turkey thanking Israel for hitting the jet, Israel Radio reported.
“We thank Israel for knocking down the plane, and we hope it is the start of a new situation, where the airspace in Syria, and in particular, the Golan Heights are clear of any of Bashar Al-Assad’s jets,” he said, according to Israel’s NRG News.
The Syrian government, however, called the downing “an act of aggression,” and claimed that Israel was aiding ISIS by hitting the aircraft.
This is the first time Israel has downed a Syrian military aircraft, since F-15 jets shot down a MIG 23 in 1985.
There are no reports of injuries or damage within Israel; the wreckage of the Syrian aircraft reportedly fell within Syrian territory, according to initial reports by rebel forces.
The pilot and navigator managed to eject after the missile hit, and landed within Syrian territory, according to unconfirmed reports. Their condition is unclear.
There are no immediate reports of any Israeli military moves beyond hitting the Syrian aircraft.
It is unclear why the Syrian aircraft entered Israeli airspace, or its mission, although fighting between government forces and ISIS and al-Nusra Front fighters is taking place on the Syrian side of the border, and elsewhere in that country.
Overnight, the US, Jordan, and several Gulf states struck ISIS targets near Aleppo from the air, incurring several dozen casualties, according to western media.
Residents of the northern Galilee town of Safed noted a heavy presence of Israeli aircraft in the vicinity, and said they heard the missile as it was fired from a nearby area.
“We heard it – it was earth-shattering loud,” one resident told The Algemeiner about the outgoing missile’s boom.
Another noted, too, that she “heard it and saw it’s smoke trail,” referring to the missile. “There have been fighter jets all over since then.”
Watch a video clip shot by a Syrian opposition group, claiming to be footage of the Israeli missile strike on the Syrian jet:
Watch a video clip purporting to show the two crew members parachuting out of the aircraft:
Watch a brief video clip of the outgoing Israeli missile: