Israel significantly escalated its confrontation with Bashar al-Assad by shooting down a Syrian air force jet that had strayed 1/2 mile into Israeli-occupied Golan. Al Jazeera reports the wreckage landed in Syrian territory. My Israeli source confirmed my suspicion (based on evidence presented below) that while the missile was fired when the plane was over Israeli-occupied Golan, it struck the plane over Syrian territory.
Israel could see the plane was attacking rebel positions and not intending hostile action against Israel. I asked my source why Israel didn’t escort the plane back into Syrian airspace and instead adopted the hair trigger approach. He responded that Israel feels it has no reaction time and shoots down anything that overflies its zone.
There will be those who argue that Israel made an error that was excusable considering the short distances from the armistice line to Israeli population centers. But that’s why you have complex computer systems controlling weapons and calibrating distances and borders. If the Israeli officer who fired the rocket didn’t know he’d be shooting down a Syrian plane over Syrian territory, he was incompetent.
This is an egregious violation of Syrian sovereignty; though Israel routinely tramples over the sovereignty of any country standing in its way, never seeming to pay a price. It should also be noted that a U.S.-built Patriot missile shot the Syrian plane down. That’s what friends are for.
Given the Israeli military’s shoot-first, ask questions never approach to these matters, it’s little surprise such an incident occurred. In the boiling cauldron that is current Middle East politics, such mistakes could easily trigger war. Major wars throughout history have been provoked by less. Anyone who doubts Israel could easily light such a match and cause a conflagration that envelops other frontline states is burying their head in the sand. By the way, the last time Israel shot down a Syrian plane was in 1985. Turkey also shot down a Syrian fighter jet. But it did so over or near the Mediterranean and the plane was more than likely in Turkish territory.
It’s also important to note that even if the plane was in Israel-held territory, no one in the world recognizes this territory as Israeli. The world considers the territory conquered and occupied. It is legally Syrian. So Haaretz’s headline reporting the plane was shot down over “Israeli territory” is a total misnomer.