The Syrian Army says its air defenses have shot down one Israeli warplane and hit a second after four planes breached Syrian airspace and attacked government troops near Palmyra Friday morning. The Israeli military has denied the claims. Syrian military officials and observers told Sputnik that the incident sends an important message to Israel.
On Friday morning, Syrian Army Command issued a statement that air defense forces had shot down an Israeli jet, and damaged a second, with two more planes in the Israeli squadron managing to fly away. The Army indicated that the Israeli Air Force had violated Syrian airspace, and targeted government troops near Palmyra in the center of the country.
Earlier, an Israeli military source told Sputnik that its warplanes were targeted by Syrian missiles during an attack on targets on Syrian territory, but said that no Israeli planes had been damaged or lost in the attack. An Israel Defense Forces spokesman later again denied the Syrian claim that an IDF aircraft had been lost.
According to Israeli media, the missiles fired by the Syrian air defense forces were S-200s, a long range, medium-to-high altitude Soviet and Russian design developed back in the 1960s, and which has seen numerous modernizations over the years.
On Friday, the Royal Jordanian Army confirmed that fragments of the missiles fired on Israeli jets had fallen on Jordanian territory. The IDF said that it had managed to shoot down one of the missiles.
As far as the back and forth battle of claims by Damascus and denials by Tel Aviv is concerned, experts say that it is difficult to ascertain exactly what occurred, since the Israeli military has made denial or downplaying of its losses almost standard practice.
Maj. Gen. Muhammad Abbas, a Syrian Army officer closely informed with the situation, provided Sputnik Arabic with new details about Friday morning’s engagement. “This morning at 2:40 am local time, according to a report from a military source, the Israeli Air Force breached Syrian airspace in the area over Al-Barij and headed east toward Palmyra, aiming to destroy Israeli military facilities. I can declare with total certainty that the enemy’s missiles failed to reach their targets,” the officer said.
“According to the air defense forces, one aircraft was shot down, and a second damaged. The rest flew away. The plane that was shot down fell in occupied territory,” Abbas added.
The officer indicated that the Israeli Air Force is now likely “in a state of shock over the operational efficiency, responsiveness and precision of the work of the Syrian Army in defending its airspace. Our air defense capabilities allow us to track an approaching enemy even in the skies over Jordan, and hit the target anywhere over Syria.”
Col. Samir Suleiman, head of the Syrian Army’s information service, clarified that the IDF’s intended targets were Syrian Army positions in the mountains near Palmyra. He also confirmed that the Israeli warplanes were F-16s, which entered Syrian airspace from over Lebanese airspace near the city of Al-Nebek in the region of al-Barij.
Suleiman said that Syrian air defenses reacted to the incursion almost instantaneously, downing the Israeli plane near the Jordanian border. Wide swathes of southern Syria are currently occupied by opposition militants.