The Israeli Air Force returned fire on a Syrian missile battery that fired on its warplanes as they were on a reconnaissance mission over neighboring Lebanon on Monday, the IDF said.
No Israeli planes were hit in the Syrian launch, IDF spokesman Lieut. Col. Jonathan Conricus said, adding that the counterstrike took place two hours later and “incapacitated” the SA-5 antiaircraft unit located 30 miles east of Damascus.
“We know according to our intelligence it was a battery controlled by the Syrian regime and we hold the Syrian regime responsible for the fire,” Lieut. Col. Conricus said.
There was no immediate comment from Syria which, while an old enemy of Israel, has rarely traded blows with it directly since a 1974 ceasefire ended their last conventional war.
Monday’s incident was additionally unusual given its publication by Israel, which rarely gives details on its air force activities over Lebanon and Syria to foil suspected arms transfers to Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists.
Such missions in Syria have increased dramatically during the country’s civil war, Israeli officials say, adding that all efforts are made to avoid accidental clashes with Russian forces helping Damascus beat back rebels.
The incident came hours before Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu was due to meet with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman in the Kiryah in Tel Aviv. Lieut. Col. Conricus said the IDF informed Russia of its strike “in real time or immediately before” it took place, and would brief Shoygu.
Spokesman Conricus said a Syrian attack on Israeli Air Force planes over Lebanon was unprecedented. Syrian antiaircraft missiles were launched at Israeli warplanes over Syria in March. They were unscathed, but one of the missiles, on its descent, was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow air defense system.
According to Conricus, the Syrian battery struck on Monday had carried out the launch against the Israeli planes in March.