IDF Shoots Down Syrian Fighter Plane Infiltrating Israeli Territory

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The Israel Defense Forces' aerial defense system on Tuesday fired a Patriot missile and shot down a Syrian Sukhoi 24 fighter jet that infiltrated Israeli territory.

The jet was toppled over the Syrian side of the Quneitra border, after it had flown 800 meters west of the border into Israel and turned around.

The decision to down the jet was made after 1:20 minutes of flight; when the Patriot hit the plane, the Syrian pilots had already turned around and flown back into their territory.

The two pilots had apparently managed to operate their ejection seats within that timeframe, as they were captured in footage released by the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union parachuting to the ground.

This is the first time since the Lebanon War in the 1980s that the IAF has toppled a Syrian aircraft. 

The jet apparently took off from a base in eastern Syria and was toppled after it had reached an altitude of 10,000-14,000 feet. At that height, the plane was capable of launching attacks on the Syrian rebel forces near the Israeli border. Although Israel did not see any threat of attack on its own territory from that plane, its policy stipulates that any plane that breaches its territorial authority must be downed to avoid security risk.

The defense establishment has not yet confirmed whether the jet infiltrated Israeli territory purposefully or errantly.

Syria confirmed late Tuesday morning that Israel had shot down one of its war planes, in what it described as an act of aggression.

Syrian state TV quoted a military source saying the downing of the plane, which coincided with U.S.-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."

The interception of the Syrian jet came after a night of heavy U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State targets in the northwest of the country.

Fighting from Syria's civil war has occasionally spilled over into the Golan. Israel has scrambled jets toward Syrian aircraft approaching the border in the past, but has never opened fire.

On Saturday morning, an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle crashed in southern Lebanon Saturday morning — a Skylark drone that malfunctioned during routine operations along the border near the town of Marjayoun, the Israel Defense Forces said, adding that it was investigating further.

According to a Lebanese media report about two weeks ago, an Israeli drone had entered Lebanese airspace. According to Hezbollah, the drone blew up an Israeli listening device after the gadget was discovered near the city of Tyre in southern Lebanon.

During Operation Protective Edge, the Israel Defense Forces toppled two unmanned aerial vehicles that infiltrated Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. The defense establishment assessed that Hamas had in its cache a number of these droned.

A Syrian fighter jet is seen in flames after it was hit by the Israeli military over the Golan Heights on September 23, 2014.Credit: AFP