Millennium Post

Israel's many responsibilities

Israel finally did what it had always threatened of doing by shooting down a Syrian jet. True, it was a Russian made Sukhoi. But, having strayed into Israeli airspace, it was returning back when it was brought down. This was confirmed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This, no doubt, will raise fears of further military escalation in the region. But even as Israel is on the alert, it has also set up what has been named as "Operation Good Neighbour". On the facts front, two Patriot missiles were launched to intercept the aircraft, the IDF said. The missiles hit the jet once it had crossed back into Syrian airspace. Syria said its jet was conducting an operation against "terrorist groups" when it was hit by Israeli fire. "The Israeli enemy targeted one of our warplanes while conducting air raids against these groups in the area of Saida on the outskirts of al-Yarmouk Basin in the Syrian airspace," a Syrian state military source said. Yarmouk Basin is one of the last remaining areas in southern Syria which is not yet under government control. Syrian forces, backed by the Russian military, have been carrying out an extensive campaign in the area in recent days, attempting to wrest control from an ISIS affiliate that is clinging on to a small pocket of the territory. Israel said that there had been a notable increase in activity by the Syrian military in the area. Interestingly, before it launched its strike, Israel communicated with Russia to make sure the jet was Syrian, and not a part of the Russian air force. So-called "deconfliction measures" have been in place between the two countries since Russian forces entered Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad. In February, Syria shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet which came under "massive anti-aircraft fire" – the IDF said at the time. As the Syrian regime has regained control of southern Syria, the border between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights has witnessed increased activity. Thousands of Syrians fleeing the fighting had established tent camps along the border. While Israeli soldiers turned away dozens of Syrians seeking refuge on the Israeli side of the fence, the army has been distributing food, clothing and supplies to Syrians hit by the fighting, in a programme called Operation Good Neighbour. An international effort, including the United States and Canada, backed the evacuation attempt, which saw the transfer of civilians through Israel to Jordan. While the operation was lauded by the international community, including the British Foreign Secretary who called it "fantastic news", the Syrian government slammed the effort as a "criminal operation". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet made political capital out of the latest developments – but it is anyone's guess when he will start.

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