Israel shot down a Syrian regime fighter jet on Tuesday after it crossed over into airspace above the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, the military said. 

The Sukhoi jet was brought down by a pair of Patriot missiles after it flew two kilometres into Israeli-controlled airspace, according to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). 

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The warplane went down in Syrian territory. The pilot was reportedly killed. 

The Syrian regime confirmed that one of its jets had been attacked by Israeli forces but said the aircraft was in Syrian airspace when it was shot down. 

The shooting is the first time that Israel has taken down a manned Syrian regime aircraft since September 2014, when another Russian-made Sukhoi jet was shot down in similar circumstances. 

Israel has shot down several Syrian regime drones in the last year. 

The Syrian regime usually responds to Israeli strikes against its forces with angry condemnation but no significant action.  

The jet is likely to have strayed into the airspace above the Golan while taking part in a Syrian regime offensive against the Islamic State (Isil) and rebel groups who are clinging to a small swathe of territory in southwest Syria. 

There has been fierce fighting close to the border with the Israeli-controlled Golan HeightsCredit:

Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said Israel had tracked unusually high numbers of Syrian jets operating in the Golan in recent days. 

He said Israel had used its hotline to Russia’s military to issue multiple warnings that the Syrian regime should not enter Israeli-controlled airspace. 

It was not clear if a specific warning was made to the aircraft before it was shot down.  

Lt Col Conricus said he did not know whether the aircraft was turning back towards Syria when it was intercepted. “I don’t know exactly whether it did a U-turn but I do know it violated Israeli airspace by two kilometres and then was shot down.” 

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Israel was justified in shooting down the jet. "This is a gross violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement with Syria. I have reiterated and made clear that we will not accept any such violation," he said.  

The Syrian regime said the shooting “confirms [Israel’s] support for terrorist groups” because the aircraft had been fighting jihadist forces.

It said in a statement through the SANA state news agency that the jet was “in Syrian airspace” above the Yarmouk Basin when it was shot down. 

Trails of Patriot missiles are seen in the sky in northern Israel after being fired at a Syrian jetCredit:
David Cohen/Flash90 via AP

The jet was either a Su-22 or Su-24, the Israeli military said. It reportedly took off from the T4 airbase in the central province of Homs before flying towards the southwest of Syria. 

Al-Masdar news, a pro-regime media outlet, identified the Syrian pilot as Colonel Umar Mare. Video on social media appeared to show his burned body lying on the ground.   

Syrian regime forces are now almost entirely in control of the border between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights – the strategic plateau which Israel has occupied since 1967. 

Israel has said it will tolerate Syrian forces returning to the border as long as they are not accompanied by Hizbollah fighters or Iranian troops. 

It has also demanded that Syria respect the terms of a 1974 ceasefire agreement which ended the last major war between Israel and Syria. 

"We are not going to tolerate any violation of the demilitarised zone of Israeli sovereignty," Lt Col Conricus said. 


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