Tuesday, July 25th 2018, Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet that violated its airspace. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that the Syrian warplane flew about 1.25 miles (2km) into its airspace and prompted their forces to respond by sending two surface-to-air missiles to intercept it. The Russian-made Su-22 Fitter crashed in Golan Heights, a disputed territory between Syria and Israel where its pilot, Col. Omran Mari, may have died.
Golan Heights is a rocky plateau at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, and spans the borders of Syria and Israel. Israel holds about two-thirds of the territory, the 460 square mile- (1,200 sq km) which it captured in the 1967 while Syria holds the remaining one-third. Israeli military spokesman Lieut-Col Jonathan Conricus reported that the warplane crashed into Syrian territory.
The crash site imagery shows the downed Syrian fighter jet to be Su-22 Fitter rather than Su-24 Fencer, as reported. Suhkoi-22 has single nosewheel compared to twin-nosewheel of Su-24. Corresponding reports indicate that one pilot was killed, thus disputing the downed fighter jet as Su-24, as two pilots would have been on onboard (or reported as killed).
Military ‘Confrontation’ Unlikely
This is the first time since 2014 Israel has downed a Syrian warplane although it struck drones breaching its airspace. IDF has been on alert over increased military activities on Syrian side of the border. Syrian Air Forces backed by Russia since mid-June 2018 have been conducting deadly air shelling close to the Golan Heights.
In September 2017, Israeli fighter jets pounded a Syrian military installation near the city of Masyaf that allegedly produces chemical weapons and advanced missiles. Syrian army reported two soldiers were killed. Syrian army has disputed Israel’s account saying its Suhkoi warplane flew as part of anti-terrorist mission where they are currently battling ISIS-affiliated group in southern Syria, close to the border with Israel.
Israel Focus on Iran
In another recorded event in February, Israeli forces sent eight fighter jets to strike the area in Syria where Iran had launched a drone that entered into Israeli airspace. Syria responded with anti-aircraft missiles hitting one of Israel’s F-16s. Both of their pilots in the plane were safe though one sustained severe injuries. IDF launched a “large scale attack” in retaliation. It was the first time in years, conceivably since the 1980s, that enemy artillery brought down an Israeli jet.
Despite all these events, no military confrontation has broken between Syria and Israel, instead Israel’s military might is focused on Iran’s activities in Syria where it allegedly aims to build up its military presence and ties with Hezbollah, the Tehran-backed Shia militia group. In April, Israel bombed a Syrian base, killing seven Iranian military personnel.