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IDF Shoots Down Syrian Sukhoi Warplane That Allegedly Violated Israel's Airspace

© REUTERS / Ronen ZvulunA war jet flies above Syria near the Israeli Syrian border as it is seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel July 23, 2018
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 - Sputnik International
Just a day before, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the David's Sling air defense system had intercepted two rockets after they triggered warning sirens in the disputed Golan Heights.

According to the IDF, two Patriot missiles shot down a Syrian Sukhoi warplane that illegally entered Israeli airspace. IDF spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters that it was either a Sukhoi Su-24 or a Su-22 [modification of the Su-17 model], belonging to the Syrian Air Force, adding that the plane was flying with "relatively high speed".

"It was shot down and it crashed. 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," he stated.

Later a Syrian military source told Sputnik that the first pilot of the jet, Omran Muri, died, while the condition of the second pilot was unknown.

READ MORE: Syrian Army Finds Israeli, Jordanian Drugs in Militant Hospital — Reports

Israel's military used the communication channel, aimed to prevent air incidents with Russia in Syria, before shooting down a Syrian fighter jet on Tuesday, Alex Gandler, the press attache of the Israeli embassy in Russia, told Sputnik.

"Israel's military was aware of the jet before taking defense measures in response to the violation of the Israeli airspace. Israel used a communication channel with Russia to make sure that the aircraft was not Russian," Gandler said.

According to the Kan broadcaster, Israel will send a letter of protest to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), peacekeepers controlling the disengagement regime in the Golan Heights, in connection with the incident with the downed Syrian aircraft.

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations announced later that the IDF tried to communicate with the downed warplane, but recieved no response. He also noted that his country warned Damascus not to breach 1974 separation of forces agreement.

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu echoed those words, stressing that Syrians "grossly violated" the 1974 agreement between two countries.

"Our forces took appropriate action," he said in a statement. "We insist that Syria stringently honour the separation of forces agreement between us and them," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli radio reported that the country had launched two missiles to intercept the incoming threat approaching from Syria after it triggered the emergency sirens.

Reaction of Damascus

Addressing the incident, Syrian state media has confirmed that Israel targeted the warplane, however, insisted that the jet was conducting operations inside Syrian airspace over the country's south.

"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 Valley in Syrian airspace," SANA news agency reported, citing a military source as saying.

READ MORE: Israel May Recognize Assad's Control Over S Syria in Bid to Repel Iran — Reports

Another military source told Sputnik that the plane downed by the IDF was inside Syrian airspace, carrying out strikes against Daesh* militants.

"The Syrian army is conducting an operation to clear the remaining terrorists in the pocket, covering an area of 50 km2 along the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Today, Syrian and Jordanian planes have been bombing terrorist positions in the area since 8 am," the source stated.

According to the IDF, in recent months, air defense systems have frequently been shooting down UAVs coming from the other side of the Syrian border. Just a day before the incident, the IDF intercepted a rocket launched from Syria during a battle between government forces and militant groups.

Tensions between the two countries escalated earlier this summer when the Syrian Arab Army launched an offensive operation against militants in the southern part of the country, pushing closer to the disputed Golan Heights, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

People walk past Israeli soldiers as they board a bus during the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, extraction from the Golan Heights, Israel in this still image taken from video, provided by the Israeli Army July 22, 2018 - Sputnik International
Damascus Calls White Helmets' Evacuation From Syria 'Criminal Op' by Israel
Israel, in turn, has recently intensified its operations in Syria, citing the alleged Iranian military presence as a pretext for strikes. Damascus and Tehran, however, have denied the allegations, stating that only Iranian military advisors are participating in the operations in order to help Syria fight terrorist groups.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, and completely annexed the territory in 1981. While the international community has not recognized the annexation, even condemning Tel Aviv for the move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the Jewish state will not retreat to the borders of 1967 and that the Golan Heights will "remain in the hands of Israel forever."

*Daesh, also known as ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State, is a terrorist group banned in Russia

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