Just hours after the hard-fought Syrian ceasefire deal went into effect after sunset on Monday - a deal which even Washington has expressed uncertainty whether it will hold or not - earlier today the tentative peace may have been broken when a new counterparty emerged, after the Syrian army claimed it had shot down an Israeli warplane and drone flying over its territory, following an Israeli attack on a Syrian army position in southern Syria, state media reported.
SANA news agency said the warplane had attacked an army position at 1 a.m. on Tuesday in the southern Quneitra countryside. It claimed that it and a drone were then shot down.
Statement by Syria Defense Ministry asserts "Israeli reconnaissance plane" (likely drone) was shot down this morning https://t.co/Vwgevzizyh— Daniel Nisman (@DannyNis) September 13, 2016
According to security analyst Daniel Nisman, the Syrian statement claims that a manned jet and unmanned UAV were downed over Sasa area (btwn Damascus and Quneitra). He adds that while Israeli UAVs enter/hover in Syrian airspace, Israeli manned aircraft rarely need to risk entering airspace to attack targets.
As of this moment Israel is denying its planes were shot down, and the Jerusalem Post reports that the IDF said Syrian forces fired two surface-to-air missiles after an Israeli strike on a Syrian position last night. However, the missiles were nowhere near the vicinity of the Israel aircraft. The military added that all the Israeli jets had returned to base. More from the Jerusalem Post:
In response to Syrian fire crossing into the northern Golan Heights last night, the IDF air force attacked cannons belonging to the Syrian regime on the Syrian side of the Golan heights. The IDF considers the Syrian regime responsible for every action on its territory and will not suffer any attempt to hurt the sovereignty of the State of Israel and its residents safety. Eli Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council responded to the fire saying, "There is no difference between spillover fire and intentional fire, a bomb is a bomb and poses a risk to human life."
"It is the responsibility of the Minister of Defense and the IDF to convey a clear message to all parties on the other side of the border that all shots fired in the Golan will be treated as firing on Israel and the IDF will respond by destructing the source of the fire," Malka added. The nationwide ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia came into effect in Syria on Monday evening, the second attempt this year by Washington and Moscow to halt the five-year-old civil war. The Syrian army, announced the truce at 7 pm (1600 GMT), the moment it took effect, saying the seven-day "regime of calm" would be applied across Syria. It reserved the right to respond with all forms of firepower to any violation by "armed groups".
In any case, the IDF is sternly denying the Syrian account, and the Israeli military said that none of its military planes were shot down by Syria, Reuters added.
According to the IDF, two Syrian missiles targeted their aircraft, but both missed. Several hours ago, the Israeli Army claimed that a “projectile” was fired from the Syrian side. According to a military spokeswoman, the projectile was most likely not intentional, rather spillover from “internal fighting in Syria,” AFP reported. However, the Israeli Army struck Syrian Army positions in response. The Israeli Army said that its military targeted “artillery positions of [the] Syrian Regime in the central Syrian Golan Heights” in response to the “projectile.”
It is possible that the Syrian army is merely attempting to save face against ongoing Israeli incursions, and as Nisman adds, this (delayed) statement from Syrian MOD stems from a need to show some sort of reax to 4 Israeli airstrikes this week. Alternatively, if Syria indeed shot down a manned Israeli fighter plane, we will have a record for the shortest Syrian "ceasefire" yet.