A Russian pilot gives the thumbs-up sign on an airbase in Syria.
(photo credit: RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES)
Israel will not take action against Russian fighter jets that encroach into its air space, a senior air force official said on Thursday.
The issue of Russian sorties in Syria was magnified in recent days after Turkey downed a Su-24 fighter jet that it claims entered its air space near the border.
According to Israeli military officials, such a scenario is not in danger of repeating itself in the skies over the Golan Heights.
"The Russian military is a new, key player which we are not ignoring," a senior military official told reporters on Thursday. "There is a clear boundary here, and they are busy with their matters, and we are busy with ours."
When asked if Israel would hypothetically intercept a Russian jet that crossed into its air space, the official said: "Our policy is that we do not attack or down anything that is Russian."
"Russia is not an enemy," he said. "We are trying to avoid tension with the Russians. Both sides wish not to get to a point where two pilots, an Israeli and a Russian, will meet in the air and will be unsure of what to do. We are not going near the aerial zone in which they are operating, and they don't come close to where we are operating."
"This region is made up of common boundaries, and there are a lot of players on the ground and in the air," the official said. "If a Russian plane crosses the aerial boundary, we will not launch a missile and we won't down it."
The surviving crew member of a Russian fighter jet shot down by Turkey said on Wednesday the plane received no warnings from the Turkish Air Force and did not fly over Turkish air space, Russian news agencies reported.
However, Turkey said that its fighter jets shot down the Russian warplane after repeated warnings, a total of 10, over air space violations.
Moscow said it could prove the jet had not left Syrian air space.
A Syrian rebel group released video Tuesday of one of the Russian pilots, lifeless and incapacitated on the ground. Russia later confirmed that it was their pilot who was killed. Reuters contributed to this report.