Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad, director of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau at Israel’s Defense Ministry, stated that Russian military jets have breached Israeli airspace since entering the Syrian conflict, but coordination with Israel prevents a confrontation like the one that occurred between Turkey and Russia last week that led to Turkey shooting down a Russian Sukoi bomber.
At a public event in Beersheba on Saturday, Gilad said:
“Russian air force pilots at times cross into Israeli air space. Thanks to the excellent security coordination which started right after the meeting between Netanyahu and Putin, and in which defined areas of operation were set, the Israel Defense Forces and the Russian military agreed on security agreements. If there is a violation , we know what to do and how to prevent an escalation.”
A senior Israeli official spoke to the Jerusalem Post about this concern.
“Our policy is that we do not attack or down anything that is Russian. Russia is not an enemy,” he said. “We are trying to avoid tension with the Russians. Both sides wish not to get to a point where two pilots, an Israeli and a Russian, will meet in the air and will be unsure of what to do. We are not going near the aerial zone in which they are operating, and they don’t come close to where we are operating.”
“This region is made up of common boundaries, and there are a lot of players on the ground and in the air,” the official said. “If a Russian plane crosses the aerial boundary, we will not launch a missile and we won’t down it.”
These security agreements were set in place as a result of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow in September. A hotline was set up to prevent conflict in aerial movements.
At that time, Netanyahu also addressed the issue of arms transfers to Hezbollah. Israel has run airstrikes against weapons convoys in Syria and Lebanon. Gilad said, “in understandings with the Russians, Israel has the freedom to operate to prevent the transfer of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah.”
Despite the Russian effort to support the regime of Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, Gilad stated that, “Syria is a dead state, and Israel must understand this and prepare accordingly. Assad’s grip on the country is faltering, it is a land without rule.”
Unconfirmed Syrian media reports stated that Israel carried out four airstrikes against Hezbollah targets in Syria on Monday night.