Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets destroyed an anti-aircraft missile battery in Syria following an attack on Israeli planes carrying out reconnaissance over Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.
Earlier, the SA-5 anti-aircraft battery, located about 30 miles east of Damascus, fired at Israeli planes conducting “routine” reconnaissance over Lebanon. Israel reported that the missile missed the IAF jets.
“We see the Syrian regime as responsible and see these missiles as a clear Syrian provocation, and it will not be accepted,” IDF Spokesman Brig.Gen. Ronen Manelis said. Manelis asserted that Israel had no intent of getting involved in Syria’s civil war, but would react to threats emanating from Syria.
According to the spokesman, Russia was informed of the incident and the matter will be discussed with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other security officials to ensure that the Israeli and Russian militaries do not accidentally come into conflict in Syria.
First the SA-5 battery fired a missile at Israeli planes over Lebanon, The Times of Israel reported. Later, a second group of Israeli planes re-entered Lebanese airspace identified and attacked the SA-5 battery.
Syria’s military subsequently threatened Israel with “dangerous consequences for its repeated attempts of aggression.”
Syria also claimed that the Israeli jets were targeted after then entered Syrian airspace, a claim that Israeli denied. IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said that both the reconnaissance planes and the ones that targeted the anti-aircraft battery “were in the skies over Lebanon, and not in Syria.”
Both the Israeli and Syrian accounts agreed that the incidents occurred about three hours apart. According to the Times, the exchange of fire was unusual because Syria doesn’t usually target Israeli reconnaissance flights and Israel doesn’t usually wait to respond.
The Syrian boldness, according to some experts, may have been a product of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent battlefield successes. It was also speculated that the delay in the Israeli response may have been due to concerns with Russia’s reaction to the airstrike.
In a conference call with The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower, Ephraim Segoli, a retired IAF general, now with the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, said that the unsuccessful Syrian attack against the Israeli planes was something “unique” that Israel might have to address. “The fact that the missile was launched from Syria to our planes in Lebanon, the fact that we are attacked a SAM battery after so many years … something different has happened. Does it mean that there’s a new direction in the ongoing campaign between us and Syria? I do not know,” Segoli added.
A complete recording of the call is embedded below.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]