Israel has issued warnings, and yesterday, it acted on those warnings.
A Syrian air force Sukhoi 24 warplane, made in Russia, which penetrated Israeli airspace in the Golan Heights early yesterday morning near Kuneitra was downed by a Patriot missile battery stationed in the north of the country.
A senior defense official related that it took just one minute and 20 seconds from the second the plane was spotted en route to Israel until it was actually downed. The official said that “Israel has warned that any crossing of the border, by air or land, will draw an immediate reaction, and that’s what we did to the plane that penetrated some 800 meters into Israeli airspace.”
The plane took off from a Syrian air force base located a few minutes from the capital, Damascus, with two pilots and no other aircraft accompanying it. Israel was not able to confirm yesterday if its mission had been an attack or surveillance, but, in any case, it was flying at an altitude of 11,000 feet when it crossed the border.
“If it would have continued on its flight path, the plane could have reached the Kinneret area in a minute, and five minutes later, it could have been over the center of the country,” the defense official declared. “In such a situation, it is clear we will not let any aircraft proceed, and we worked quickly to shoot it down.”
Hamodia’s military correspondent relates that the minute the missile was fired, the plane changed direction, turned around and was apparently trying to fly back towards Syria. But the missile was already in the air and it hit the plane over the border, where it exploded. Fragments of the plane and the missile scattered over a wide area in Syrian territory.
The two pilots in the plane ejected and parachuted east of the border before the missile struck. They were collected by Syrian army vehicles that took them to the hospital. Israel is not sure if they were injured or just taken for examinations.