On Jul. 24, 2018 the Israeli military shot down a Syrian Sukhoi Su-24 (NATO: Fencer) fighter bomber after it entered Israeli airspace, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said, raising fears of further military escalation in the region.
According Israeli reports, the incident took place over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The pilot was killed.
The Russian-made Sukhoi fighter bomber jet entered two kilometers into Israeli airspace when two Patriot missiles were launched to intercept the aircraft, the IDF said. The missiles hit the jet once it had crossed back into Syrian airspace, the IDF added.
Syrian news agency Sana quoted an unnamed military source as saying the plane was conducting raids against “armed terrorist groups” near the southern Yarmouk Valley.
“The Israeli enemy targeted one of our warplanes while conducting air raids against these groups in the area of Saida on the outskirts of al-Yarmouk Basin in the Syrian airspace,” Sana reported.
As reported by CNN, Yarmouk basin is one of the last remaining areas in southern Syria not yet under government control. Noteworthy Syrian forces, backed by the Russian military, have been carrying out an extensive campaign in the area in recent days, trying to wrest control from an ISIS affiliate that is clinging on to a small pocket of territory.
According Israel, as a result of ongoing internal fighting in the war-torn country, there had been a notable increase in activity by the Syrian military in the area on Tuesday, especially the Syrian Air Force (SAF).
As explained by IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the Su-24 took off from the T-4 military base northeast of Damascus. Israel has struck the T-4 base multiple times in the last year, targeting what the Israeli military has said are Iranian military assets at the base.
Israel communicated with Russia to make sure the aircraft was Syrian, and not part of the Russian air force, before it launched its strike, according to Conricus. So-called “deconfliction measures” in fact have been in place between the two countries since Russian forces entered Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad.
Conceived in 1970s, the Su-24 is a Russian-made aircraft and is operated by the SAF.
One day earlier, Israel launched two missiles from the David’s Sling missile defense system at two Syrian rockets which the IDF believed were heading for Israeli territory. When it became clear the two Syrian SS-22 missiles were going to land inside Syria, the David’s Sling missiles were ordered to self-destruct, the Israeli military said. One missile successfully self-destructed, while it was unclear what happened to the second.
It marked the first time David’s Sling has been used operationally. Designed to intercept medium and long-range missiles, David’s Sling is a larger, more powerful version of Iron Dome.
Israel last shot down a Syrian fighter jet in September 2014 under similar circumstances. The IDF said that jet (an Su-24) had entered one kilometer into Israeli airspace before it was downed by a single Patriot missile. The pilot and co-pilot ejected and landed in Syria.
On Feb. 5, 2018 the Israeli Air Force (IAF) lost an F-16I to a Syrian S-200 (NATO: SA-5 Gammon) surface-to-air missile (SAM). The incident came after an Israeli AH-64 Apache combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched from Syria that infiltrated the country’s airspace.Tthe pilot and navigator were able to bail out of the plane before it crashed near Kibbutz Harduf. The pilot was seriously injured, while the navigator was only lightly wounded.
Photo credit: Encyclopedia of Syrian military via South Front
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