This will be remembered as the week the Syrian war finally came to Israel. Sirens sounded in the country’s north for three days in a row, forcing Israelis into bomb shelters. The sirens were triggered by fighting inside Syria, right on Israel’s border. The war in which Israel has largely avoided taking an active role — with some exceptions such as airstrikes against Iranian targets and medical aid to wounded Syrian civilians — is now in the country’s back yard.
Israel captured the western part of the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967, effectively annexing it in 1981.
“Regime forces have been approaching areas close to our border. That, of course, has increased friction,” Israel Defence Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus said. “We have been on elevated readiness levels on a variety of systems, both aerial and ground defence systems.”
On Monday, two Syrian SS-21 rockets failed to reach Israel and no casualties were reported. A day later it was more serious. Israel fired two Patriot missiles at a Syrian fighter jet that it says crossed into Israeli airspace. The missiles downed the Russian-made Sukhoi jet. It fell in southern Syria, in the area still controlled by rebels including Islamic State. The pilot, Amran Mara’e, was reported as killed. Islamic State posted a video of the burnt wreckage online.
Israel’s military says it was tracking the jet from the moment it took off from the T-4 air base in central Syria and flew “at high speed” towards the border with Israel.