The Israeli military shot down a Syrian fighter plane on Tuesday claiming that the jet had infiltrated its airspace over the Golan Heights, according to media reports. The jet had reportedly traveled 2,600 feet west of the border into Israel before turning around.
The Israeli military reportedly stated that its U.S.-made Patriot air defense system intercepted the fighter plane in mid-flight. An Israeli official reportedly said that the jet -- a Sukhoi Su-24 Russian-made fighter plane -- crashed on the Syria-controlled side of the plateau. According to The Associated Press, or AP, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that the aircraft moved into the territory, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, in a "threatening way.”
"We will not allow any element, whether it is a terror group or a state, to threaten our security and breach our sovereignty," Yaalon said, according to AP. "We are committed first and foremost to ensure the security of the Israel's citizens and we will use all means at our disposal to do so."
Yaalon reportedly raised the possibility that the plane may have crossed into Israeli airspace by accident, but added that Israel would retaliate to any perceived threats "whether they stemmed from a mistake or were deliberate," Reuters reported.
The downing of the plane -- the first incident since the war with Lebanon in 1982 -- coincided with the first airstrikes launched by the U.S. and some of its Arab allies against Islamic State group targets in Syria.
A Syrian state television report claimed that the plane's downing was “in the framework of [Israel's] support for the terrorist [Islamic State] and the Nusra Front," according to Haaretz.
Israel has reportedly responded to occasional shelling in the Golan Heights, but has avoided taking sides in Syria's civil war, which has been raging since 2011.
“We cannot tolerate any penetration of the Israeli airspace, so we had to shut him down even though we understand that his intention was not to attack us,” Brig. Gen. Ram Shmueli, a former head of intelligence in the Israeli Air Force, said in a conference call, according to The New York Times. “We are not involved in the war in Syria, and we don’t have any intention to be involved. We have to keep our borders safe on one side but we have to make sure we are not part of this war.”