For the first time in 36 years, an Israeli jet has been shot down. The title overstates the importance of that loss, but Israel now has to factor in Russian-supplied Syria air defenses when it conducts operations in Syria. Sooner or later, Israel’s fight against Iran in Syria will bring it into conflict with Russia. From Middle East Monitor at theantimedia.org:
The military confrontation between Israeli and Syrian/Iranian forces on 10 February set off widespread analysis and speculation on the probability of a major regional war. The severity of the latest clash – with reports that Israel may have destroyed up to 50 per cent of Syrian air defense systems – underscores the depth of tension in the area.
But the most important aspect of the clash was the shooting down of an Israeli F-16 fighter jet by Syrian air defenses. This marked the first time in 36 years that an Israeli fighter jet has been brought down in combat. In view of Israel’s regional air superiority, this is a significant loss, especially in terms of morale, as it highlights Israeli vulnerabilities.
In view of the loss of the F-16 fighter jet – which left one Israeli airman gravely wounded – and the spirited fight back by Syrian air defence forces, it is clear that Israel has lost this latest round of sparring with its regional foes Iran and Syria.
The credible resistance of Syrian air defence forces speaks to their growing confidence, a reality that is reinforced by wider developments, notably Syria’s winning momentum in the final stage of the country’s complex proxy war. But this is unlikely to deter Israel, which views Iran’s presence in Syria as a major national security threat.
The next major clash may be just around the corner.
Enemies in Close Proximity
Israel has tried hard to blame Iran for starting the clash by sending an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(drone) over the border into Israel. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s complaint that Iran violated Israeli sovereignty is hard to square with Israel’s near-weekly violation of Syrian air space during the entire course of the Syrian conflict.
Indeed, since 2012 Israel has conducted at least 100 air strikes on targets inside Syrian territory. Whilst the majority of these have been described as “Hezbollah-related” targets, some have hit Syrian facilities. In view of these repeated violations of Syrian sovereignty it is difficult to see how Israel can claim the moral ground in the conflict.