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Israel shoots down a Syrian warplane

Just to add to the fun over in Syria – where the stated goal of taking down ISIS has already expanded into airstrikes against their al-Qaeda rivals, who might very well have been the more urgent target – a Syrian fighter jet penetrated Israeli airspace and was shot down over the Golan Heights, in an incident the bemused global media can’t quite wrap its head around.  From CNN:

Israel’s military said Tuesday it shot down a Syrian warplane over the Golan Heights amid what it described as growing tensions in the border area.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the plane “was identified while attempting to infiltrate Israeli airspace in the Golan Heights.”

Israel used a Patriot anti-aircraft missile to bring it down, the IDF said.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the aircraft shot down was a Russian-made Sukhoi-24 and that both the pilot and co-pilot ejected into Syria.

The plane penetrated roughly a kilometer (more than half a mile) into Israeli airspace, he said.

This seems like an odd moment for the Syrians to pick a fight with Israel, doesn’t it?  What with all those American warplanes zipping around Syria, and bombing a few targets that weren’t on the list politely forwarded to Damascus by Washington.  The UK Guardian notes this is the first Syrian jet downed by the Israeli Defense Force since 1982.  The pilot and co-pilot were evidently able to eject.

The Syrian jet was ostensibly targeting “militant” positions near the only border crossing between their country and Israel.  It was engaged after spending about a minute and a half in Israeli airspace, which might not sound like much at first blush, but is a rather lengthy sojourn for a professional military pilot driving a plane full of air-to-ground munitions… especially since the Israelis have taken some fire from Syria recently, some of it accidental “spillover” from the Syrian civil war, but some of it aimed deliberately at Israeli targets.  Israel has been vocal in expressing its displeasure about these incidents, and is deeply concerned about the Syrian war spilling into its territory.  Blundering into their airspace is a heck of a mistake for a Syrian combat pilot to make.

Officially the Syrian government hasn’t responded to the incident, but an unnamed military official was quoted mumbling something about how Israel was “showing support for terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra” by taking out their plane.  Whatever gets you through the night, anonymous Syrian dude.  This would probably be a good time to roll your planes in for a little maintenance and stay out of the way.

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