The IDF confirmed Tuesday morning that a Syrian fighter jet was shot down by an Israeli patriot missile over the Golan Heights. It was the first time in over thirty years a Syrian jet has entered Israel and the IDF think the jet crossed into Israel by accident en route to attacking rebel positions on the Golan.
"A jet was successfully intercepted by our aerial defense system along the Syrian border," the IDF said in a statement. According to a military source, the jet entered Israel for a couple of seconds, penetrating a few hundred meters before turning back, at which point he was hit by the patriot missile.
"It was a Russian-made Sukhoi," an IDF spokesman told Reuters.
A senior air force officer told Ynet that, "At 8:57am a Sukhoi 24 fighter jet crossed 800 meters into Israeli territory and then the decision was made to shoot it down. From the moment that the decision was made until impact, one minute and 20 seconds passed. The missile hit and as far as we know, the Syrian crew ejected successfully."
Pieces of the Syrian jet fell near Quneitra in Syria. The initial indications of the security forces is that the plane was en-route to attack rebels in the area of Quneitra, which was captured last month by al-Qaeda affiliated militants and has been the site of massive clashes in recent weeks.
The officer stressed that the military was responding to a credible threat from the jet. "We identified the Syrian jet at a height of 10-14,000 feet. That's a height considered comfortable for an attack run. A fighter jet can reach the Sea of Galilee in less than a minute and everywhere else in five."
Syria responded to the incident, saying it was further proof of "Israel's support of the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front," the al-Qaeda-linked rebel group fighting in the Quneitra region.
A senior military source added that "the discovery, identification and interception was quickly and professionally executed and the IAF stood its guard. The interception was done with a surface to air Patriot missile."
"Moments ago a Syrian aircraft infiltrated Israeli airspace. The IDF intercepted the aircraft in mid-flight, using the Patriot air defence system. The circumstances of the incident are being reviewed," an initial IDF statement said.
The aircraft was shot down over the Golan Heights, where fighting from Syria's civil war has occasionally spilled over. The IDF currently think the jet was en route to attacking rebel targets near the border with Israel when it entered Israeli airspace.
The aircraft was intercepted by a US-manufactured Patriot missile, the spokesman said.
Israel last downed a manned Syrian aircraft in 1985, when Israeli fighters on a surveillance mission over Lebanon destroyed two Syrian MiG-23s that approached them.
Initial reports from 9 am said a patriot missile was fired in the Golan Tuesday morning, shooting down a suspicious aircraft that infiltrated Israel's airspace from Syria. It was initially unclear if the aircraft was an UAV. The IDF said the aircraft did not fall in Israeli territory but did enter Israel's airspace.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report