Report: Russian jets force Israeli F-16s away from Lebanon

Russian jets reportedly forced Israeli aircraft out of Lebanon, but none of the three countries has confirmed the incident. 

By Batya Jerenberg,  World Israel News

Russian fighter jets from Syria forced Israeli F-16s away from the Lebanese capital Sunday night, according to a report citing Lebanese and Russian media outlets.

A Lebanese paper said the Sukhoi Su-34 jets took off from their Syrian coast base specifically to intercept the Israeli planes, while other reports indicated that the Russians had been on a military exercise off the coast and were forced into Lebanese airspace by bad weather conditions.

Since its direct involvement in Syria’s civil war began in September 2015, Russia has almost always been willing to turn a blind eye to Israeli air strikes on the country – and there have been hundreds of them. They have ranged from anti-terrorist activity, such as targeting caravans carrying armaments to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to hitting Syrian outposts that were the sources of errant shells that reached Israeli territory, and most recently, bombing Iranian military targets in Syria.

This tolerance of Israeli strikes is apparently result of quiet understandings reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Israel’s red lines and the actions Israel can take in Syria as long as they pose no threat to Russia’s military presence. There is a “deconfliction mechanism” in place to prevent misunderstandings that could lead to clashes between the two militaries as well as what is basically a hotline between the two leaders.

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Considering that the report was about Lebanon, where the Russians do not have a direct interest and do not regularly fly over its skies, the veracity of the reports has been questioned.

In the past, Israel has reportedly hit Syrian targets after flying through Lebanese airspace. Netanyahu did stress to his Cabinet on Sunday that the IDF is “operating against the transfer of deadly weapons from Syria to Lebanon or their manufacture in Lebanon.”

However, so far, Russia and Israel have not confirmed the latest report about Russian jets forcing the IAF from Lebanon. In response to media queries, the IDF spokesman said, “We do not relate to foreign reports.”