Israelis Down 2 Syrian MIGs Over Lebanon
Israeli warplanes flying a routine patrol over eastern Lebanon today shot down two Syrian MIG fighters that tried to intercept them, the Israeli military command announced.
The military command said the Israeli planes shot down the sophisticated, supersonic MIG-23 jets with air-to-air missiles. Lebanese military sources said they received a report from their Reyak air base in the Bekaa Valley confirming that the Soviet-made planes had been downed.
In the Syrian capital of Damascus, a Syrian military spokesman said the MIGs drove off two Israeli F-15 fighters “who violated Syrian airspace in the area of Nabek,” 40 miles north of Damascus.
He said the U.S.-made Israeli Eagle fighters “withdrew towards the occupied territories without achieving their objective.” He did not mention any Syrian losses.
First Since 1982
It was the first time Israel had downed Syrian warplanes since the summer of 1982, when 80 to 90 Syrian planes were felled in major air battles after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.
The Israeli military command said the Israeli planes returned safely to base.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres said on Israel radio that he did not know why the Syrian planes tried to intercept the Israeli planes. “It’s difficult to see a purpose,” Peres said.
Israeli military sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said the Syrian planes fell inside Syria. The sources said the Syrian planes had been flying inside Lebanon close to the border when the battle began.
Normally Fly Parallel
One of the sources said Syrian planes normally fly parallel to Israeli planes on patrol, apparently to make sure the Israeli pilots don’t cross the border.
Normally the planes stay outside of what the source called “contact range.” He said he did not know why the Syrian pilots behaved differently today.
One of the sources said the Syrian planes apparently shifted direction to intercept the Israeli patrol and he indicated that the Israeli pilots may have fired the first shots.
“In aerial combat today, it’s a question of whoever draws first, wins,” the source said.