SHAFAQNA – The Israeli army said on Tuesday that it had shot down a Syrian fighter jet that flew into Israeli-controlled airspace on the Golan Heights. The Russian-made Sukhoi fighter was targeted with a US-supplied Patriot ground-to-air missile, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. An army statement said the aircraft had “infiltrated into Israeli airspace”. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed the territory, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel. The army declined to comment on whether the downed plane had been involved in fighting with Syrian rebels who in recent weeks have seized areas near the frontier with the Israeli-held Golan.
Errant shells and gunshots from the fighting in Syria have occasionally hit Israeli-controlled territory, but Tuesday’s incident was the first reported overflight by a Syrian warplane. Syria confirmed that Israel had shot down one of its aircraft, calling it an act of aggression.
Syrian television quoted a military source as saying that the downing of the plane, following air strikes led by the US against targets in northwest Syria of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, was part of Israel’s “support for the terrorist (Islamic State) and the Nusra Front”.
The Nusra Front is an al-Qaeda linked rebel group involved in recent fighting with Syrian troops near the Golan frontier. Late last month the group attacked positions of UN peacekeepers stationed between Israeli and Syrian lines on the Golan and seized 45 Fijian UN troops for two weeks before releasing them unharmed.