Israel intercepted and shot down a Syrian air force Sukhoi fighter jet on Tuesday morning after it allegedly infiltrated Israeli airspace.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in a statement on Twitter, said “Two Patriot missiles were launched at a Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet that infiltrated about 1 mile into Israeli airspace. The IDF monitored the fighter jet, which was then intercepted by the Patriot missiles.”
However, Syrian state television on Tuesday said that its fighter jet had never left the country’s airspace. In a statement, it also said, “Israel proves it backs armed terror groups and targeted a Syrian military plane that was bombing those groups in Syrian airspace near the Yarmouk River valley.”
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The IDF said that the jet crashed on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. A Syrian military source told Al Masdar news agency that the pilot of the SU-22 fighter bomber died in the crash. The pilot was identified as a colonel of the Syrian Air Force. The fate of the second pilot remains unknown.
Another official based in Syria and allied with the Syrian government, on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the body of the dead pilot had been taken away by Islamic State militants.
This is the first time since 2014 that Israel has shot down a Syrian fighter jet.
Syrian government forces have been carrying out airstrikes near the occupied Golan heights since mid-June, with the help of its ally Russia.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 war. The two countries are technically still at war. A United Nations peacekeeping force has established a buffer zone between the two countries to maintain peace.