Israeli Defense Minister: Russia Also Violated Our Airspace

The incident was 'an error' and marks the only failure so far in military coordination between the two countries over Syria, Moshe Ya'alon said.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet seen in the sky, during a joint Kazakh-Russian military exercise in 2008.
Reuters

Military coordination between Israel and Russia over Syria broke down once, said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Ya’alon said that despite Israeli and Russian efforts to coordinate military operations in Syria, on one occasion a Russian plane penetrated Israel's airspace by one mile. Ya'alon said that Israel immediately made contact and the plane immediately returned to Syrian airspace.

He defined the incident as an “error," caused by the pilot’s flying in close proximity to the Golan Heights. The Israeli and Russian air forces have been conducting talks in recent months, regarding coordination measures that will prevent “misunderstandings” when their military forces, particularly the air forces and navies of both countries, operate in the theater.

On Saturday, Amos Gilad, director of political-military affairs at the Defense Ministry, said that the entry of the Russian air force in the region is not restricting Israel’s freedom of operation, and that "it’s impossible to completely prevent the violation of Israeli airspace by Russian planes." Gilad added that while it's possible to set up arrangements on the issue, "I assume we won’t down a plane over every infringement.”

The air force regards the Russian military activity as part of the changing reality in the Middle East. A senior air force officer who briefed correspondents last week said that “Russia is not the enemy, and our policy does not include attacking or firing at any Russian.” He added that the two armies are striving to prevent friction that could arise when both are operating in the region’s airspace, but that no “demilitarized” zones were defined, from which Israel’s air force would be excluded. “We don’t need anyone’s permission and we make sure we get our job done” he said.