Israel shoots down Syrian warplane as Golan frontier heats up

A war jet flies above Syria near the Israeli Syrian border as it is seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel July 23, 2018. (File photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2018
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Israel shoots down Syrian warplane as Golan frontier heats up

  • Syrian forces have been battling rebels and Daesh militants at the frontier with Israel in recent weeks
  • Tuesday marked the first time government forces reached the border fence with the UN’s Disengagement Observer Force at the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

JERUSALEM/BEIRUT: Israel said it shot down a Syrian warplane that crossed into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday, but Damascus said the jet was fired on as it took part in operations against rebels on Syrian territory.
The incident added new fuel to weeks of tensions over the Golan, a strategic plateau between the two old enemies and where Israel has been on high alert as Syrian government forces, supported by Russia, close in to regain rebel-held ground.
For the second time in as many days, Israeli sirens sounded on the Golan and witnesses saw the contrails of two missiles flying skyward. The military said it fired Patriot interceptor missiles at a Syrian Sukhoi jet that crossed 2 km (1 mile) into Israeli-controlled airspace, after first trying to warn it off.
“It was shot down and it crashed...most likely in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
“We do not have any information so far about the pilots. I do not know of any reports of parachutes being spotted, and we do not know if any pilots have been retrieved.”
Syrian state media said, however, that a Syrian warplane had been targeted by Israel and hit while conducting raids in Syrian airspace.
“The Israeli enemy confirms its support for the armed terrorist groups and targets one of our warplanes, which was striking their groups in the area of Saida on the edge of the Yarmouk Basin in Syrian airspace,” the official news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying.
An Israeli military statement appeared to acknowledge that its mission was related to the civil war next door.
“Since morning hours, there has been an increase in the internal fighting in Syria, including an increase in the activity of the Syrian Air Force,” the statement said.
It said Israel would “continue to operate against” any breach of a 1974 UN armistice deal that established buffer zones on the Golan.
Israel worries that Syrian President Bashar Assad might try to defy the demilitarization regime or allow his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements to deploy near the Golan.
The raised Israeli-Syrian tensions have prompted intercession by Moscow, which sent its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and top general on Monday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli officials said Netanyahu rebuffed as insufficient a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces 100 km (62 miles) from the Golan lines.
Also on Monday, Reuters witnesses on the southern edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan saw numerous warplanes and helicopters in the skies over Syrian territory.
The aircraft were dropping bombs, apparently as part of a Russian-backed Syrian government push into areas previously held by anti-government forces.
Anti-aircraft fire could also be seen, targeting the warplanes.
In February, an Israeli F-16 jet was brought down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
That warplane crashed in northern Israel while returning from a bombing raid on what Israel said was an Iranian military installation in Syria. Both pilots ejected and were injured, one critically.


100 fighters killed in 48 hours in northwest Syria: monitor

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago
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100 fighters killed in 48 hours in northwest Syria: monitor

  • At least 19 government troops were killed today
  • The Human Rights Observatory said Russian and regime jets are still bombing the area
BEIRUT: Fighting raged in northwest Syria on Thursday as clashes between regime forces and extremist-led fighters killed more than 100 combatants in two days, a war monitor said.
The Idlib region, home to some three million people, is supposed to be protected by a months-old international truce deal, but it has come under increased bombardment by the regime and its Russian ally since late April.
On the southwestern edges of the extremist-run enclave, strikes and fierce fighting since Tuesday killed 75 anti-regime fighters and left 29 dead on the government side, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
This included at least 14 anti-regime fighters and 19 pro-government forces killed early Thursday, it said.
The fighting has centered around Tal Meleh in the north of Hama province, according to the Britain-based monitoring group.
“The clashes are ongoing,” with both regime and Russian war planes pounding the area, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
On Wednesday, 16 civilians were killed in regime bombardment on several parts of the rebel region, he said.
Russia and rebel backer Turkey brokered an agreement intended to stave off an all-out regime assault on Idlib in September, but that deal was never fully implemented as extremists refused to withdraw from the planned buffer zone.
The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham group, led by ex-members of Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, extended its control over the region, which spans most of Idlib province as well as slivers of the adjacent provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.
The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.