Syrian army shoots down Israeli warplane as it conducted airstrikes near Palmyra

© AP Photo/ Ariel Schalit, file

USA Today – Syria claimed it shot down an Israeli war plane and struck another Friday after four of the aircraft violated Syrian airspace. However, Israel dismissed the reports that any of its jets were hit.

The incident is a rare military exchange between the two hostile neighbors.

The Syrian military said the Israeli planes targeted a military site near the ancient Roman city of Palmyra in the east of Homs province, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

SANA said that Syria air defense forces confronted the warplanes, shot one down in Lebanese territory, hit another and forced the other two to flee.

“This blatant Israeli act of aggression came as part of the Zionist enemy’s persistence with supporting ISIS terrorist gangs and in a desperate attempt to raise their deteriorating morale and divert attention away from the victories which Syrian Arab Army is making in the face of the terrorist organizations,” a Syrian military statement carried by SANA said.

The Israeli military denied Syria’s claims and said that its forces intercepted an anti-aircraft missile, without elaborating.

It said its warplanes struck several targets in Syria and had returned to Israeli-controlled airspace when several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria toward the planes, the Associated Press reported.

“We repeat, at no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF [Israeli Air Force] aircraft compromised,” an Israeli army spokesperson said, according to the Times of Israel.

It was at least the second time in the space of six months that Syria fired surface-to-air missiles at Israeli aircraft and claimed to have downed them, the newspaper said.

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