Things are hotting up in the skies over and nearby to Syria!

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Russian Sukhoi SU-33

IDF officer who shot down Syrian plane speaks of tension before missile launch

Captain Or Naaman says of the July incident,

‘You take deep breaths and you wait to hear and see that you knocked out the target’

Captain Or Naaman, who commanded the team that shot down a Syrian plane, in an interview broadcast on September 17, 2018. (Screen capture: Hadashot news)

Captain Or Naaman, who commanded the team that shot down a Syrian plane, in an interview broadcast on September 17, 2018

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and still occupies the area.

Syria claimed its jet was flying inside its own airspace during an operation against “terrorist groups” when it was hit by Israeli fire.

Israel last intercepted a Syrian jet four years ago.

The new incident raises the risk of military escalation between the two long-time Middle East foes.

In recent weeks Russian-backed Syrian forces have been battling rebels and Islamic State militants near the Israeli border to retake parts of the south that were lost during the civil war.

Captain Or Naaman, the IDF officer who commanded the unit that downed a Syrian plane after it entered Israeli airspace in July, described the tension in the control station during the operation, in an interview with Hadashot news shown Monday.

According to the Israeli military, a Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet entered Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights on July 24, traveling approximately two kilometers (one mile) before it was shot down by two Israeli Patriot interceptor missiles.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the plane was Syrian, not Russian.

He said: “The only thing we know about the aircraft is that it crashed, most likely in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights.”

The IDF said it was on “high alert” following “an increase in the internal fighting in Syria” and greater activity by Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s air force.

The day before the jet was shot down, Israel used its David’s Sling missile defence system for the first time when two Syrian surface-to-surface missiles seemed to approach its airspace.

Naaman commanded the team who fired the missiles, and she said that during the operation the control station remained quiet.

“I can say it is a bit like the paratroopers’ course I did. There is that moment before you jump from the plane — you don’t know what will happen, whether the parachute will open, or if the helmet will fall off, or how you will land on the ground,” she told Hadashot. “This is fairly similar to the process of launching from the control station.”

She also described the palpable tension after the launch.

“You take deep breaths and you wait to hear and see that you knocked out the target,” she said. “When you hear the ‘boom’ outside of the missile, you… that’s… that’s something I never imagined I’d hear.”

The full interview with Naaman will be broadcast on Wednesday night.

The Israel Defense Forces said at the time it had repeatedly warned Syriaagainst flying aircraft close to the border before shooting down the jet.

Syria confirmed that its aircraft had been shot down by Israel and said it crashed in the Yarmouk Basin in southwestern Syria.

One of the pilots, identified as Col. Amran Mara’e, was killed when the plane was shot down, a Syrian military source told the Russian Sputnik news outlet. The fate of the other airman was not immediately known. According to Israeli reports, however, there was only one pilot in the plane.

The plane was involved in Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s offensive against the rebel-held Daraa and Quneitra provinces, near the Israeli border.

Minutes before the plane was shot down, Syria’s state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV was broadcasting footage from the fence demarcating the UN buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces inside the Golan Heights. A UN observer post could be seen just on the other side of the fence.

According to the IDF, the fighter jet took off from the Iran-linked T-4 air force base in central Syria, which Israel has bombed in the past, and traveled “at high speed” toward the Golan Heights.

Israel stressed that it will continue to enforce the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which requires Syria to abide by a demilitarized zone between the two countries

This was the first time that Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet since 2014, when another Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet entered Israeli airspace and was targeted with a Patriot missile.

In February of this year, the Syrian military shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet as it was taking part in a bombing raid against an Iranian-linked airfield in central Syria after an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace, according to the IDF. The F-16’s pilot and navigator were injured as they bailed out of the aircraft, which crashed to the ground in northern Israel.

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