Israel has shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-24 Fencer fighter-bomber after the aircraft entered Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights. The Fencer was engaged successfully by a pair of Israeli Patriot missiles. One of the pilots, Syrian Air Force Colonel Omran Mari, was killed. The fate of the other pilot is unknown at the moment. The incident occurred in the midst of increased military activity on the Syrian side of the border. The Syrian government has been fighting both ISIS-affiliated groups, and other rebel forces in southern Syria for some time now. For now, it seems likely that the Fencer strayed into Israeli airspace as the result of a navigation error. This incident is not anticipated to bring a major confrontation between Israel and Syria. It will, however, likely raise tensions in the region even higher.
The shootdown highlights both Israel’s staunch commitment to defending its airspace and frontiers. Yesterday, Israeli David’s Sling missiles knocked down tactical ballistic missiles fired by Syrian or Russian forces as part of the fighting going on in Syria. One of the SS-21 tactical ballistic missiles came down just one kilometer from the Israeli border.
The shootdown also serves as a reminder of how volatile the skies over and around Syria are. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, multiple incidents have played out in the skies. A simple navigation error led a Russian Su-24 into Turkish airspace in 2015 where it was promptly dispatched by an F-16. The close proximity between Russian, and Coalition aircraft in the skies over northern Syria led to the set up of elaborate deconfliction system between US and Russian defense officials.