The Israeli military shot down a Syrian fighter jet that infiltrated its airspace over the Golan Heights on the morning of Tuesday, September 23, 2014.
This is the first of such downing in decades, according to an AP report. This incident heightens tensions in the volatile Middle East plateau.
The United States has, in collaboration with Arab countries, launched airstrikes on the same morning against terrorist group, ISIS in Syria.
The military said a “Syrian aircraft infiltrated into Israeli air space” in the morning hours and that the military “intercepted the aircraft in mid-flight, using the Patriot air defense system.” It however said the the circumstances surrounding the incident were “unclear.”
Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Yaalon said the aircraft had crossed into Israel in a “threatening way” and vowed to retaliate to any similar attempts in the future.
“We will not any allow element, whether it is a terror group or a state, to threaten our security and breach our sovereignty,” he said. “We are committed first and foremost to ensure the security of the Israel’s citizens and we will use all means at our disposal to do so,” he said.
However, a defense official, speaking with the AP on condition of anonymity, identified the downed aircraft as a Sukhoi Su-24 Russian fighter plane. He said the Syrian jet penetrated 800 meters (2,600 feet) into Israeli air space and tried to return to Syria after the Patriot missile was fired.
The crew managed to abandon the plane in time and landed in Syrian territory, the Israeli official said.
Israel has remained neutral in the three-year civil war in Syria, though Israeli troops have responded to occasional mortar fire that has landed on the Israeli side of the Golan, some of which have been intentionally aimed at Israeli civilians. Israel has always maintained that Syria was responsible for any cross-border fire.
The two countries are bitter enemies who have fought several wars in the past.