Soldiers mistakenly fire at Israeli crop-dusting plane, thinking it’s from Syria

Troops operating on Golan Heights believed the aircraft had infiltrated Israeli airspace; IDF investigating the ‘serious incident’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A crop-dusting plane sprays a field in Israel's Negev Desert, Wednesday (Dror Garti/Flash90)
A crop-dusting plane sprays a field in Israel's Negev Desert, Wednesday (Dror Garti/Flash90)

Soldiers opened fire at a crop-dusting plane flying over the Golan Heights on Wednesday, mistaking it for an infiltrating aircraft from Syria, in what the Israel Defense Forces called a “serious incident.”

The pilot was not injured.

The accident occurred in the central Golan Heights, near the Syrian border. Crop-dusting flights are a relatively common occurrence in the largely agricultural area, which has also seen several cases of unmanned aerial vehicles from Syria entering the airspace above.

“IDF troops operating on the Golan Heights spotted a plane that they suspected of being an enemy aircraft that infiltrated from Syrian territory and represented a real threat, and therefore they opened fire at it. Once they realized it was a civilian Israeli aircraft, they stopped shooting,” the military said in a statement.

The pilot told friends after the incident that he’d felt something strike the wing of his aircraft, but initially believed it was a bird, until he noticed that fuel was leaking out of the plane, the Ynet news site reported.

He quickly landed back in the Mahanaim airfield near Rosh Pina, thinking the shot had been fired from Syria, according to the outlet.

A quick investigation determined that they had in fact been fired by soldiers from the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade.

“As a part of defending the area against infiltrating aircraft, troops are expected to identify and monitor suspicious craft. But this was a serious incident that is being investigated. Lessons will be learned,” the army said.

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