A Syrian official warned Tuesday night that his country will respond “soon enough” to the IDF shooting down a regime fighter jet after it entered Israel’s airspace, according to a Lebanese news site.
“Damascus is in no hurry to enter a war with Israel,” the unnamed source told El Nashra, but added that “the response to the downing of the jet will come soon enough.”
The official claimed Israel supports “terrorist centers” in southern Syria and shot down the jet to stop the regime’s operations against them.
The first step of the Syrian response would be to complete operations against those centers, he said. Afterwards “the direct response to the Israeli forces will come at the appropriate time.”
The third part of the response would be to “foil any attempt to push Syria’s allies away from the (border) area.”
Israel said it shot down the Sukhoi-model jet with a pair of Patriot missiles Tuesday after it entered some two kilometers inside Israel territory in the Golan Heights. The plane crashed inside Syria, reportedly killing its pilot.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Israel tried to contact the pilot several times but received no response, and so proceeded to intercept.
According to the Ynet news site, Russia protested Israel’s actions, with officials claiming the fighter had not breached Israeli airspace as Jerusalem has claimed. Israel subsequently provided them with a clear radar image proving its assertion, the report said.
The Kan public broadcaster reported that Israel had warned Moscow of the potential of military “spillover” into Israel as the regime’s forces continue to advance against rebel forces in the border area.
Kan reported that the IDF has filed a complaint with UNDOF, the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, over the jet incident. Though Israel believes the fighter pilot likely made a navigational error while carrying out bombing runs against rebel-held areas, officials still view the incident as a serious breach of Israeli sovereignty, it said.
The IDF is on “elevated alert” along the northern border because of the fighting on the Syrian side of the fence, military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
Danon said Israel seeks “no escalation in the region” but will protect its border.
“Israel will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty — not from Syria, not from Gaza, not from any other enemy that threatens our security,” he said.
Syrian rebels surrendered their last pockets in the southwestern Quneitra and Daraa provinces last week, leading thousands of opposition fighters, their families and other civilians to evacuate to the rebel-held province of Idlib in northern Syria.
On Tuesday, government forces reached the border fence where a UN peacekeeping force is deployed at the edge of the Golan Heights for the first time since 2011, when an uprising swept through Syria against President Bashar Assad.
Minutes before the reported downing of the jet, Syria’s state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV was broadcasting footage from the fence demarcating the UN buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. A UN observer post could be seen just on the other side of the fence. The camera showed an Israeli post 400 meters (440 yards) away.