The Latest: Official: IS seized body of downed Syrian pilot
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
An official based in Syria and allied with government forces says Islamic State militants have seized the body of a Syrian pilot whose fighter jet was shot down by Israel.
The official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the fate of the second Syrian pilot remains unknown. He did not elaborate.
The official is with the so-called “Axis of Resistance,” which is led by Iran and which includes Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other groups fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Israel said it shot down the jet after it flew into Israeli territory. The incident comes as Syrian government forces retaking territory from rebels reached the Golan Heights frontier for the first time in seven years.
A sliver of land along the frontier, on the Syrian side, is still in the hands of IS.
—Bassem Mroue in Beirut;
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon says that Israel seeks “no escalation in the region.” He spoke shortly after his country’s military shot down a Syrian fighter jet it said had breached Israeli airspace.
The Israeli government said it acted after the jet entered Israeli airspace. Danon says Israeli forces saw the plane “crossing the border …. we tried to contact a few times, and there was no response.”
He added that in such cases, “the only thing we can do is to protect our civilians.” Danon spoke at the U.N. headquarters in New York before the Security Council’s monthly Mideast meeting on Tuesday.
He says that there was no time to “wait to see what are the real intentions of the pilot” and added “that’s what any other country will do in a similar situation.”
Danon stressed that “Israel will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty — not from Syria, not from Gaza, not from any other enemy that threatens our security.”
Israel’s prime minister has called the reported breach of Israeli airspace by a Syrian fighter jet a “gross violation” of a demilitarization agreement between Israel and Syria.
Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel “will not accept any such violation,” whether from the air or ground.
Netanyahu’s statement says he expects Syria to “rigorously” respect the 1974 agreement which sets out a demilitarized zone along the shared Syria-Israel frontier.
The Israeli military said it shot down the jet after it flew 2 kilometers into Israeli territory. The incident comes as Syrian government forces retaking territory from rebels reached the Golan Heights frontier for the first time in seven years.
The Israeli military says the Syrian plane it shot down departed from the Syrian T4 air base, which Israel is believed to have attacked earlier this year.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus says Tuesday that the plane flew toward Israel at “relatively high speed” before breaching the country’s airspace. He said it was unknown if the plane deliberately crossed into Israel nor what happened to its pilot. The plane crashed in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights, he said.
He said the increased activity near Israel’s frontier with Syria put the military on “elevated alert” and prompted Israel to issue a number of warnings through different channels to ensure a 1974 agreement which sets out a demilitarized zone along the shared Syria-Israel frontier would not be violated
The Israeli military says it has shot down a Syrian fighter jet that entered its airspace.
The military says it monitored the advance of the Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet Tuesday and shot it down with a pair of Patriot missiles after it entered Israeli airspace by about two kilometers.
It is only the second such incident along the border in 30 years.
The military says that there had been an increase in the internal fighting in Syria since the morning hours, including an increase in the activity of the Syrian Air Force.
It said the Israeli military was on high alert and would continue to protect its territory.
Syrian state media says government forces have reached the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights after capturing territory from rebels and Islamic State militants.
Al-Ikhbariya TV on Tuesday broadcast footage from the fence demarcating the U.N. buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces inside the Golan Heights.
The camera showed an Israeli observation post 400 meters (440 yards) away.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967. The U.N. deployed a peacekeeping force between the two sides in 1974.
It is the first time government forces have taken up positions along the frontier since an uprising against President Bashar Assad swept through the country in 2011. Islamic State militants later seized territory from rebels along the frontier region.