There are many reports that a Syrian military jet has been shot down today near Damascus, however various reports may be getting the story wrong.
For instance, Reuters, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), reports that the jet crashed southwest of Damascus airport. However, other reports say that the jet crashed near Dumayr airbase, which is in Damascus province but is west of the capital. This also makes more sense, since the SOHR said the plane crashed after flying over territory controlled by Islamic State, and it is the Dumayr airbase, not Damascus airport, that fits that description best.
Reuters also says that while ISIS is reporting the shoot-down, they are not taking responsibility.
A long-time Jihadist watcher on Twitter, however, reports that ISIS has indeed taken responsibility:
The Syrian news outlet Qasioun News reports that a Syrian MiG 23 crashed in the “Byar al Qasab” area due to technical failure. We’re actually not sure where this is, as that name does not match any description we can find. Burj al-Qasab, the closest match we could find, is northeast of Lattakia.
LiveUAMap, which is mapping the crisis, agrees with our assessment that the aircraft in question appears to have crashed somewhere east of Damascus, near the Dumayr airbase.
Isis footage claiming shot down SAA warplane in Dumayr airbase Damascus cs
Civil war and Russian intervention in Syria
If confirmed this will restart speculation that either ISIS or Jaish al-Islam have acquired MANPADS, man-portable anti-aircraft systems.
— James Miller
Yesterday April 21, President Vladimir Putin received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid unconfirmed reports of Russian fighter jets firing on Israeli aircraft in or near Syria at least twice, and a Russian jet scrambling to intercept an IAF plane, Ynetnews.com reported. It was their third meeting since even before Moscow began bombing in Syria in September 2015.
The Kremlin has denied attempting to intercept the Israeli plane, Jerusalem Post reported. There are no indications that any planes were hit. There are also multiple contradictory reports about the nature and severity of the incident or incidents.
The top-selling Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Russian jets have fired on Israeli aircraft at least twice in recent weeks. Other reports have other details. Times of Israel provides an account of the various reports:
According to one account on the Ynet news website, a single Russian jet was scrambled to meet an Israeli military aircraft operating along the northern border. The report stated that it was unclear why the Russian fighter was launched. It noted that the two planes did not make contact and that the Israeli fighter continued on its course unobstructed.
A second report on Channel 2 news claimed that the incident occurred between Russian and Israeli squadrons, as Israeli jets flew along the Syrian coastline. The two fighter groups reportedly approached each other, and very nearly confronted each other. However, contacts between Israeli and Russian officials — through a coordination body set up last year — prevented a more serious incident.
Finally, Channel 10 military reporter Alon Ben-David appeared to combine the two accounts, tweeting Thursday that a single Russian jet was scrambled to meet an Israeli squadron over the Syrian coast. He too noted that the incident never became a full-blown confrontation, and that none of the planes had locked onto each other throughout the event.
Ynetnews reported Netanyahu as saying before his 3-hour meeting with Putin, which was mainly on Syria and its border with Israel:
“I came here with one main goal – to strengthen the security coordination between us so as to avoid mishaps, misunderstandings and unnecessary confrontations.”
As you can see, there is no definitive account of what took place between Russian and Israeli jets, and neither Israel nor Russia have released official statements. There are some who think the entire incident has been greatly exaggerated. Then again, Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin is an indication that there are Israeli concerns about the chances of a “misunderstanding”:
Russia and Israel have enjoyed amicable relations in recent years and Israel has claimed in the past to be satisfied with the division of labor in the war in Syria.
At that time, Netanyahu was quoted as saying:
My goal was to prevent misunderstandings between IDF forces and Russian forces. We have established a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings. This is very important for Israel’s security,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a telephone briefing from the Russian capital.
“Our conversation was dedicated to the complex security situation on the northern border,” the prime minister said. “I explained our policies in different ways to try to thwart the deadly weapons transfers from the Syrian army to Hezbollah — action actually undertaken under the supervision of Iran.”
The net result appears to be that the two countries will strengthen their communications and keep relations amicable, but Netanyahu has mentioned “red lines” that the Kremlin statement didn’t acknowledge, as Defense News reports.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, James Miller