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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Syria claims to have shot at Israeli jets

Syria claims that it shot at Israeli jets that violated its airspace overnight last night. They claim that the planes broke the sound barrier and dumped 'ammunition' in a deserted area of northern Syria. The IDF denies any knowledge of the incident.
"We warn the Israeli enemy government against this flagrant aggressive act, and retain the right to respond in an appropriate way," the Syrian spokesman said.

It was not clear if Syria was accusing the Israelis of using warplanes or some type of other aircraft like drones.

"The Israeli enemy aircraft infiltrated into the Arab Syrian territory through the northern border, coming from the Mediterranean heading toward the eastern region, breaking the sound barrier," the spokesman said. "Air defense units confronted them and forced them to leave after they dropped some ammunition in deserted areas without causing any human or material damage."
Well, if they were drones, they could not exactly have been 'forced to leave.'
Israel acknowledges flying over Lebanon routinely, but it is unclear how often its aircraft fly over Syria.

At the beginning of last summer's war against Lebanon, Israeli warplanes buzzed the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad in what analysts called a warning to Damascus. In June of the same year, they also flew over Assad's summer home in the coastal city of Latakia, after Syrian-backed Palestinian militants in Gaza kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit.
Captain Ed thinks the Syrians are making this up:
This sounds a little fishy. Why would Israeli military jets overfly Syria from the Mediterranean -- and especially heading northeast? Where would they be going, Iraq or Turkey? Neither nation would have given them an especially friendly aloha. The pilots would have to have been seriously lost to have flown such a mission.

Besides the skepticism over the description of the flights, one has to wonder why Syria would announce that they can't hit two planes flying in an isolated mission over their territory. What purpose does that serve, except to point out their inability to protect their own airspace?
Turkey might play along; we have decent diplomatic relations with them. And Iraq might actually have been the target if this was a reconnaissance flight; it's no secret that Israel helps the Iraqi Kurds and that it has an interest in knowing what Iran is up to in Iraq.

As to the Syrians advertising their inability to protect their own airspace, yes, that makes me skeptical about the story too.

My guess is that there was such a flight, that it had some sort of reconnaissance mission in Kurdish territory, that the Syrians saw the flight on the radar, but that it was out of their range, and they just want to let Israel know that they are watching us.

Update 8:42 PM

Two updates to this story that indicate that the flight really did take place and the Syrians did fire on one or more Israeli fighter jets.

Atlas Shrugs reports based on an Arutz Sheva story that international satellites recorded the incident.

And these interesting observations from Charles Levinson:
The Israeli Air Force, which is reportedly in the middle of a large exercise, often trains in Turkish air space not far from the Syrian border. [Emphasis mine. CiJ]

Tensions have been high all summer between Israel and Syria. Last night’s alleged incident, if it turns out to be true, is precisely the scenario — in which an Israeli exercise is misinterpreted by the Syrians and causes a chain reaction that leads to war — that analysts have been warning about for months.

UPDATE: The more I think about it, it seems that the Syrians decision to dub it an “ammo drop” rather than an air strike is an indication that the Syrians are intent on deescalating and downplaying whatever actually happened last night. The Israelis, by refusing to confirm or comment on the incident, are playing along, and thus also helping to defuse what could have been a prickly situation.


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