Russian pilots do sometimes violate Israeli airspace, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon confirmed in an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday, but IAF pilots never shoot them down.
The lone instance of a breach that occurred recently was rectified immediately when a Russian aircraft ventured one mile into Israeli air space. The Russians were “immediately contacted” and the plane returned “immediately to Syrian territory,” Ya’alon said.
“I remind you that about a year ago we shot down a Syrian Sukhoi-24 plane that penetrated into our territory, and we also shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle,” Ya’alon said.
“When we understood that the Russians were planning to act inside Syria we immediately met – also the prime minister — with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, including the [IDF] chief of staff and the assistant chief of staff. We created an open channel for coordination so as to prevent misunderstandings, because Russian planes are not trying to attack us and therefore it is not necessary to automatically to shoot them down even if there is a mistake.”
Ya’alon was confirming a similar statement made Saturday at an event in Be’er Sheva by Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security bureau.
“Russian air force pilots at times cross into Israeli air space, [but] thanks to the excellent security coordination which started right after the meeting between Netanyahu and Putin (two months ago), and in which defined areas of operation were set, the Israel Defense Forces and the Russian military worked out security agreements,” Gilad said.
“If there is a violation, we know what to do and how to prevent an escalation,” he added.