Israel's Downed Jet Means One Thing to Assad, Another to the Opposition

The government considers the downing of the jet a very important turning point. To the Syrian opposition, it's another 'Iranian adventure'

The remains of an Israel F-16 that crashed after coming under fire by Syrian air defenses, February 10, 2018.
JACK GUEZ/AFP

Despite the quiet in the north following the downing of an Israeli fighter jet and the massive Israeli attack in Syria that followed, a political battle over the implications of the affair is raging between the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime.

The government considers the downing of the jet a very important turning point in PR strategy, a senior public affairs official in the Syrian government told Haaretz from Damascus.

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Israeli F-16 fighter jet crashes after shot down by Syrian missilesHaaretz

“To see people handing out candy in the streets of Damascus and Beirut, that shows a change in the atmosphere and the government wants to take full advantage of it," he said.

The official said what he called the victory photo of the downed aircraft, and the phone call afterward between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin designed to prevent escalation and deterioration, shows that “in Israel as well they’re starting to reassess things.”

Regarding the claim that the regime completely concealed reports of a counter-attack by Israel against numerous targets in a Damascus suburb, in the Dar’a district in the south and as far afield as the T4 airport in Tadmor, the official said there was no concealment either in Syria, Arab countries or in Israel.

The official also stated that the self-confidence of the Syrian army has risen due to its recent successes against terror groups, especially the Islamic State and opposition militias. 

In contrast, a Syrian opposition figure told Haaretz that the attempt to conceal the results of the Israeli attack after the downing of the plane was a cover-up of what he called the “Iranian adventure.” “Despite all the statements about fundamental change in the strategy vis a vis Israel, the assessment is that in the near and more distant future, we’ll see more Israeli attacks without real ability in terms of Syrian air defenses to respond."

"There’s no doubt that the Russians here are the key players but the Russians, from talks they’ve held with the parties, are already convinced of the need to move ahead a diplomatic solution and so they didn’t allow the situation to deteriorate to a direct and open clash,” he said. The opposition figure said that from talks the opposition was holding it seemed too early to count out the United States “in the framework of the international struggle in Syrian territory regarding a future arrangement.”