At least one Syrian fighter pilot was killed when Israel intercepted his plane as it flew into Israeli airspace, according to a Syrian military source quoted by Sputnik, a Russian government-backed news outlet on Tuesday.
The pilot, identified as Amran Mara’e, was on a mission targeting Islamic State fortifications in southern Syria, according to the report. The fate of a second pilot in the plane was as yet unknown.
“It was shot down and it crashed…most likely in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said. “We do not have any information so far about the pilots.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the incident “a gross violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement with Syria. I have reiterated and made clear that we will not accept any such violation. We will not accept any such penetration of, or spillover into, our territory, neither on the ground nor in the air. Our forces acted appropriately. We insist that the Syrians strictly abide by the Separation of Forces Agreement between us and them.”
It was the second time in as many days that residents on the Golan were sent to bomb shelters as air raid sirens sounded. Witnesses saw the contrails of two missiles flying skyward. The military said it fired Patriot interceptor missiles at a Syrian Sukhoi jet that crossed over a mile into Israeli-controlled air space, after first trying to warn it off.
Following the incident, the IDF said it had repeatedly warned Syria against flying aircraft close to the border.
“We issued numerous warnings through numerous channels and in various languages to make sure that no one on the other side violates Israeli airspace or threatens Israeli civilians or sovereignty,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.
“During the day, there has been a significant, irregular, high amount of aerial activity on the Syrian side,” he added.
Conricus said the military had conveyed warning messages to Syria throughout the day about violations of Israeli airspace through Russia and the U.N. peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights, UNDOF.
Meanwhile, United Nations Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, warned of “a disturbing trajectory of increasingly frequent and dangerous confrontations” between Israel and Syria.
“I call on all parties to abide by all the provisions of the 1974 agreement and support the role of UNDOF in that regard,” Mladenov told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, after the shootdown.