Israel Uncharacteristically Understanding After Shooting Down Syrian Warplane That Entered Its Airspace

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Photo: Jack Guez/Getty Images

After a night of intense anti-ISIS bombing by the U.S. across the border in Syria, Israel announced it shot down a Syrian fighter jet on Tuesday morning when the plane crossed over into its airspace.

The Russian-produced Sukhoi warplane was hit in the Golan Heights — which Israeli forces seized from Syria during the 1967 war — around 9:15 a.m., after it, perhaps accidentally, entered Israel. (The pilot ejected and landed safely in Syria.) Although Israelis have responded to stray fire from the Syrian civil war and recently shot down a Syrian drone, the New York Times says this is the first such airspace violation in more than 25 years.

But Israeli officials were quick to dismiss suggestions that they were entering the ongoing conflict in Syria, explaining that this was simply an automatic response to the breach of its airspace. (Take note, future attackers.) “We are not involved in the war in Syria, and we don’t have any intention to be involved,” said Brig. Gen. Ram Shmueli. “We have to keep our borders safe on one side, but we have to make sure we are not part of this war.”

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed as much to CBC’s Evan Solomon in an exclusive interview. “Our air defenses are designed to intercept any intrusion of our airspace by enemy fighter aircraft, and we had such a penetration. It may have been accidental,” he said. “We shot it down‎.”