WATCH: Rebels release purported footage of Syrian warplane shot down by IAF missile

Jet was 800 meters into Israeli air space when the IAF took the decision to shoot it down, a senior air force official says.

September 23, 2014 13:35
2 minute read.

Syrian jet downed by IAF

Syrian jet downed by IAF

A Syrian warplane intruded into Israel on Tuesday morning; the air force hit it with a Patriot missile, in the first downing of a Syrian combat aircraft since 1985.

At 8:57 a.m., the Israel Air Force detected a Syrian Sukhoi- 24 attack aircraft crossing into Israel’s air space. The jet was 800 meters into Israeli territory when the IAF took the decision to shoot it down, a senior IAF official said.

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“This decision is in line with our policy of intercepting all intrusions into our air space,” he said.

Eighty seconds after the decision was taken, a Patriot surface-to-air missile struck the enemy craft.

When the missile was fired, the plane was flying into Israel, but when it struck, the jet had already turned around and was flying back into Syria.

The pilot and navigator parachuted into Syrian territory.

Their descent was captured on video by Syrian rebels, who released the footage on You- Tube. The fate of the air crew is unknown.

The aircraft was flying at an altitude of between 10,000 and 14,000 feet, the Israeli air force source 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 [the Sea of Galilee], and within 5 minutes, it could have gotten to any place,” the air force officer said.

The jet took off from the Saikal Air Base, northeast of Damascus, and likely sought to bomb rebel targets in Quneitra, on the Syrian part of the Golan Heights, just over the Line of Separation from Israel.

“We don’t have any interest in supporting the rebels. This is a border; any aircraft that crosses it will be shot down,” the IAF official said. “Just as an intruder on the ground will be intercepted.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the Syrian warplane had “approached Israeli territory on the Golan Heights in a threatening manner, and even crossed the border.”

Israel “has made it clear in the past, and is reiterating now: We will not allow anyone, neither a state nor terrorist organization, to threaten our security and to violate our sovereignty,” he said.

Ya’alon vowed to “respond aggressively to any attempt of this kind, whether it’s intentional or an accident.”

Syria confirmed that Israel had shot down one of its warplanes, describing the incident as an “act of aggression.”

Syrian state TV quoted a military source saying the downing of the plane, which coincided with US-led air strikes against Islamic State in Syria, came “in the framework of [Israel’s] support for the terrorist [Islamic State] and the Nusra Front.”

Quneitra has been a hotbed of the civil war in recent weeks as battles have raged just over the Israeli border between the Syrian army and al-Qaida- linked Nusra Front rebels.

On August 31, the IAF used a Patriot missile to shoot down a drone that entered Israeli airspace from Syria. It said the drone had been fired from the Quneitra region.

“The IDF will not tolerate a breach of the State of Israel’s sovereignty,” the army said then.

Army sources said the drone likely belonged to the Syrian military and strayed into Israeli airspace by accident.

Commenting on the interception, Ya’alon said Israeli air defense personnel had “once again proven their high alertness and professionalism.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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