Russia confronted and forced an Israeli fighter jet to turn back after detecting it flying in Russian-controlled airspace over Syria, reported YNet News. The Israeli air force jet, detected by Russian radar, was flying close to the Lebanon-Syria border, forcing the Russians to warn the Israelis, who allegedly heeded the warning instantly and flew away.
As Safir, a Lebanese news publication, that said diplomats from Lebanon aware of the event confirmed that "Russian aircraft immediately blocked the Israeli jets' path while they flew above the Akkar region in northern Lebanon. The Russians immediately sent a clear warning to the Israelis that entering Syrian airspace would be a pretext for opening fire," according to YNet News.
Russia has been conducting airstrikes in Syria since Sept. 30 at the request of the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, according to i24 News. While the U.S. has been leading a coalition of allies targeting ISIS, Russia seems to make no distinction between the so called "moderate rebels" and the Islamic State.
Washington accused Moscow of targeting rebels that pose a threat to Assad in a bid to shore up his embattled regime. Moscow has denied these allegations, accusing the U.S. of refusing to cooperate more closely in sharing intelligence.
Israel has previously conducted airstrikes in Syria, targeting suspected arm shipments and delivery to Hezbollah, according to Mint Press News. The entry of Russia in the Syrian war theater is said to be a matter of concern to Israeli officials, who feel Moscow's control over Syrian airspace has greatly limited their ability to launch preemptive air strikes in the country.
Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew a high level delegation comprising of the defense minister, the intelligence chief, and other security advisers to Moscow, where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials.
On top of the agenda was the creation of a "mechanism" to help the two countries share information while conducting operations over Syria. Since then, this is the first major incident involving the air forces of the two countries. If this incident is confirmed, it will go on to show if the Russians are intent on propping up the Syrian regime, even at the expense of keeping Israel off areas where Hezbollah is extremely active.