Israeli Defense Minister: Russia has breached our airspace

Close coordination between Israel and Russia will prevent a Turkey-like debacle. The IDF appears to have a clear policy of avoiding downing a Russian plane, even if it has entered Israeli territory since its pilots have no intentions of attacking Israel.

By: JNI Media and World Israel News Staff

Russia has breached Israel’s airspace while flying sorties against Islamic terror groups in Syria, but Israel does not feel threatened by this, and close cooperation with the Russian army will prevent a possible confrontation between the two armies. Israeli security officials said over the weekend.

Against the background of the Russian military presence in Syria and in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey last week and possible fighting in the northern front, on Thursday the Israeli Air Force concluded its second annual exercise, which introduced the entire corps to current combat systems and battle scenarios.

As part of the exercises, a senior Air Force officer clarified that when it comes to Russia, Israel will try its best to avoid friction, despite the increasing Russian military presence in neighboring Syria.

According to the senior officer, the IDF has forged a clear policy of never downing a Russian plane, even if it has entered Israeli territory, the Israeli Walla news site reported.

Russia is a major player and can’t be ignored, so we’re making a separation—they’re minding their business, we’re minding our business,” the officer explained. “Our policy is that we do not attack or shoot down any Russian plane. Russia is not our enemy. We are trying to avoid going near them, so as not to force pilots into questionable situations, we don’t come near each other — they avoid us, and we avoid them.”

The officer added that the two sides, Israel and the Russians, maintain telephone contact. “We don’t inform them and we don’t ask for information,” he quickly emphasized. “We just do the work that needs to be done.”

However, the IAF exercise that began last Sunday and ended on Thursday was designed to maintain combat readiness in the northern arena, regardless of Russia’s presence. Air crews are preparing for combat in areas where various players in the Syrian civil war have positioned air defense systems, anti-aircraft missiles and shoulder-fired missiles.

“I fear the things I do not know about,” said the senior officer, noting that “the ease with which we’ve been able to fly over enemy territory has been decreasing, and each system that tries to knock me down — is a challenge.”

Netanyahu and Putin.

PM Netanyahu (R) with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Sunday that a Russian plane had breached Israeli airspace once. “Russian planes have no intention of attacking us, so there is no need to automatically shoot them down, even if they accidentally [breached our air space],” he explained while speaking to Kol Israel Radio.
“We immediately got on our communication channel, and the pilot immediately returned to Syrian territory. Ahead of time, they of course let us know when they approach our territory. This is part of the coordination channel, and as we don’t interfere with them as a policy, the same happens in Syria, and it is good that they do not interfere with us flying and acting in accordance with our interests.”

A coordination mechanism in place between Moscow and Jerusalem has prevented any misunderstandings, he added.

This mechanism was established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin when the former visited in Moscow in September.