Flores: Was an Israeli War-Plane Downed? Did Israel Attack ‘Iranian Assets’? Unwrapping Mixed Reports


By Joaquin Flores:  On the evening of Thursday November 29th, the Israeli Air-force attempted an attack and bombing run on several targets in Syria. At the time it happened, we reported the breaking news.


Since then, FRN has received numerous reports from independent journalists in Syria, as well as tracked official statements from the three countries apparently, and immediately involved – Israel, Syria, and Iran.

Published on: Nov 30, 2018 @ 21:57

There appears to be, as is always the case, conflicting reports as to the nature of the attacks, and what the results were. Our editorial team has met and conferred on this subject, and discussed the probabilities, based on our professional experience and in analyzing the patterns of past statements in connection with prior incidents involving these states.

As for Iranian state-run media, neither Fars nor PressTV has reported on this attack as involving any attack on Iranian assets. However, PressTV reported that Israeli media had reported that Iranian assets were targeted. Interestingly, Iranian media via PressTV did not counter or correct Israeli media claims.

Furthermore, there remains ambiguity over the validity or clarity of Syrian state media claims that an Israeli jet or bomber was shot down. The relevant part of the PressTV report is:

Syria has shot down “hostile targets” following an Israeli attack south of the capital Damascus and foiled its goals despite the “intensity of the aggression,” state media said on Friday. 

A military source did not specify the targets but dismissed earlier reports that an Israeli war plane had been downed.

Syrian air defenses responded to the attack aimed at the town of Kiswah, south of the capital Damascus Thursday night, destroying at least five missiles.

They “were able to foil its goals despite the intensity of the aggression,” state media said.

Israeli media claimed that Iranian military advisers as well as fighters from Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah were the main target in the attack.

Israel claims that Iran’s presence in Syria as part of an advisory mission requested by Damascus poses a threat to the regime’s security. Using this pretext, Tel Aviv has struck alleged positions of Iranian and Iran-backed forces across Syria over the course of the seven-year conflict.

The attacks are usually viewed as attempts to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces.

Israel and the US have even put pressure on Russia, another close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war against terrorist groups, to force Iran out of Syria.”

What is critical to note here is that Iranian media has not denied that the Israeli attacks involved strikes on Iranian (backed, etc.) targets. While not an admission, it is certainly not a denial, and in our experience with interpreting official media statements, or official statements to media, such an omission of a denial often times equates to an admission to, or agreement with, the claim in question.

The two circled areas represent Al Kiswah, in orange, just south of Damascus, and Al-Dimass in red, to the west. To understand the proportions of this map, this are essentially suburbs of Damascus, being about 15km from the city. We reported that the anti-air systems used to thwart the attack on Al-Kiswah were located in Al-Dimass, this has been confirmed. We reported that the S-300’s located in Masyaf, were not used. However, Masyaf is some 150km north of Damascus, as the bird flies, and the S-300PMU-2 ‘Favorit’ deployed at Masyaf has a range of 250km. This means that Damascus is effectively shielded by the S-300, and this system can target 24 enemy planes simultaneously. There are three divisions stationed at Masyaf, moreover.


Israeli corporate and state-run media has been following, consistently, the ’emergent’ Israeli policy, which has increasingly hedged back from admitting its attacks are aimed at Syria, and has shifted the framework of justifying their military attacks on Syria as attacks in Iranian assets in Syria. While equally illegal, it serves multiple purposes in its foreign relations as well as internal media and political discourse.

At the same time, despite official statements from Tehran which are often mixed and contradictory in nature, it is clear that Iran is, through various means  indeed deploying or backing armed groups in Syria, with the expressed mission of securing Syria’s sovereignty, and act with the permission of the Syrian government. As a proviso, the term ‘Iran’ is used to infer both overt and covert actors, both public and private, but with the tacit or overt support from Iran’s ‘deep state.

Taken together, there is a fair chance that Israel indeed attacked units that were Iranian, were backed by Iran (such as Hezbollah), or were Syrian units with Iranian special forces or contained Iranian advisors who work identically to Russian advisors, embedded in Syrian units.

Social-media knee-jerk reactions which dispute Israeli claims are not undeserved. As stated, Israel has begun to justify most of its actions on Syria, involving outright attacks on Syrian assets, infrastructure, and military personnel, as attacks on Iranian assets, personnel, etc.

Israeli media has indeed claimed that Iranian military advisers as well as fighters from Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah were the main target in the attack.

Israel claims that Iran’s presence in Syria as part of an advisory mission requested by Damascus poses a threat to the regime’s security. Using this pretext, Tel Aviv has struck alleged positions of Iranian and Iran-backed forces across Syria over the course of the seven-year conflict.

The attacks are usually viewed, rightly so by Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus, as attempts to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces. There is a long record of Israel providing direct support to Al Qaeda and ISIS units (and related) in the Syrian War.

Israel and the US have even put pressure on Russia, another close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war against terrorist groups, to force Iran out of Syria. This pressure has not born fruit, and is not likely to, so long as Iran faces economic sanctions which force it to do much business through Russian and friendly intermediaries to the benefit of Moscow’s oligarchs, then it is also a convenient lining-up of military-security interests which balance this, that Moscow not heed Tel Aviv or Washington’s demands to pressure Tehran regarding Syria.

Reports of an Israeli plane shot down by a Syrian air defense system that participated in an air raid against military facilities in the Damascus area still have not been confirmed. However, the fact of the Israeli Air Force operations in the Syrian sector was actually recognized by the command of the Defense Army (IDF).

The press service of the IDF on the night of Friday, November 30, responded to reports of the downed Israeli plane, denying them. Later, the Syrian sources themselves admitted that they were “confused”, since in the dark of the day radars can not accurately identify the “solid body”.

The Russian language Israel portal israelinfo.co.il has reported that an Israeli plane was downed, but that this occurred as a result of friendly fire, chalking it up to fog of war. It is reported that one of the missiles fired by Syrian air defense forces fell in an open area in the Golan Heights area on the border with Israel. However, Israel’s use of the term ‘missile’ and ‘Syrian forces’ is so flexible, that this may refer to an unrelated, coinciding incident involving teenagers hurling rocks.

Air strikes, according to Zionist media outlets, were inflicted not only on the “Iranian bases” in southern Damascus, but also on targets near the Golan Heights, the de facto Israeli border in Israeli occupied Syria, in the Syrian Quneitra region, as well as in the coastal areas of Tartus province in eastern Syria.

The massive attack was undertaken a few hours after Zionist reports of an Iranian plane flew over Syria to Beirut to deliver weapons for the Shiite Hezbollah. The plane of the company Fars Air Qeshm, owned by the Iranian military, allegedly flew out of Tehran in the morning and soon landed in Beirut. This is not the first alleged flight with arms for Hezbollah, but earlier Iranian liners followed a more winding route, avoiding Syria’s airspace or making an intermediate stop in Damascus to disguise the true goal, the newspaper notes.

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The representative of the IDF, Lieutenant Colonel Avihai Adrai, wrote on his Arabic-language Twitter account that Lebanon should stop the delivery of Hezbollah weapons by Iranian aircraft.

FRN followed several sources Thursday night which claimed to receive information about the attack of the Israeli Air Force on the base of Iranian pro-government forces in the suburbs of Damascus. Syrian state news agency SANA announced that “enemy targets” were successfully intercepted by the country’s air defense. However, there were reports of downed Israeli aircraft which as we have stated, remain unclear and unresolved.

The television channel Al Arabiya reported that the target of the Israeli attack was the armories of pro-Iranian forces at the base of Al-Kisva in the southern suburb of Damascus.

Media covering the air raid of the Israeli Air Force confirm the fact that this is the first operation of the IDF in the Syrian sky after the incident with the Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft and the delivery of S 300 long-range anti-aircraft missile systems.

Recall, on September 17th, at about 10:00 pm local time, four F-16 Israeli Air Forces struck Syrian targets with guided air bombs in the area of ​​Latakia. The attack was carried out at low altitude from the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time, Israeli aircraft deliberately created a dangerous situation for surface ships and aircraft located in the area, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Hiding behind the Russian plane, Israeli pilots confused Syria’s air defenses into downing the IL-20, which was the official Russian version.

As a result, allegedly, the IL-20, whose effective reflective surface is an order of magnitude larger than that of the F-16, was shot down by a S-200 missile.

All 15 crew members of the Russian IL-20 shot down near the Syrian coast were killed.

FRN concluded that it was likely the France frigate which shot down the IL-20.

On September 24, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Moscow would transfer the S-300 to the Syrian army in order to “enhance its combat capabilities.” On October 2nd, Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that the air defense system was transferred to Syria. Russia delivered three divisions of the S-300PMU-2 ‘Favorit’ systems to Damascus. These are among the most advanced, computer-upgraded S-300’s made, and are comparable in numerous ways to the S-400 systems.

These systems appear to have thwarted Israeli attacks until now, but questions remain regarding who really controls the S-300, and if they are indeed yet in use. This point is significant.

When Syria received the S-300’s, is unclear. Numerous reports from various generally credible news agencies covering this war, all ran multiple stories announcing the arrival, contradicting each other, and with dates ranging over the period of three weeks. In addition, it was said officially, from Moscow, that the personnel would require three months to train, in order to use them.

We pose the question for this reason. It is confirmed that the S-300 was not used, and Iran has been silent about this attack. This Israeli attack occurred within, that is before, the three months training ostensibly required for the Syrian army personnel to train on the assets. The training date began on or about October 2nd, which places the ‘use date’ of the S-300’s by Syria in the first week or January, or thereabouts.

While under norms of international law, it is clear that Iran is acting legally and upon invitation of the Syrian government, to engage in an anti-terrorism campaign. It is clear that Israel has been, with the US, gulf monarchies, and Turkey, backing these same terrorists.

However this raises questions which require further investigation, specifically whether Iranian assets were indeed targeted, and if this somehow, in someway – whether technically by means of actual control of the S-300, or by way of agreement between Syria and Russia – prevented the Syrian Army from using the S-300’s against the IDF Air Force if its attacks were chiefly upon Iranian forces.

It may or may not be prudent to pose or explore the question in this way. The ongoing debate about why Syria did not use the S-300’s to thwart an attack which – by Syrian accounts was thwarted successfully anyhow – can be answered in the shortest way by pointing out that the three months training period on the S-300’s has not arrived. 

Previously, Israeli planes were successfully downed by Syrian S-200’s, which are still operational and are computer and missile upgraded with quite modern tech and software. The S-200 upgraded is capable of taking down 4th generation fighters and multi-roles, in many circumstances. The Israeli air-force is comprised of many 4th generation fighters such as the F-16 family, and such a feat is highly probable in the abstract.

Given the reports from the Russian language Israeli media report on the ‘friendly fire’ downing of an Israeli jet on the night of the 29th, and given the initial reports that Syrian fire had taken out not just missiles, but also an Israeli jet, lends credibility to the claim that an Israeli jet was downed. At whose hands, it is difficult to assess.

Finally, the claim that Iranian assets were targeted may not be false, but this poses significant problems in terms of relevance outside of any possible ‘deconfliction’ arrangement that Russia has with Israel regarding Iran’s activities in Syria. Nevertheless, Israeli attacks on assets in Syria acting with Syria’s permission, whether they are Iranian or from any other country, are neither here nor there in terms of their flagrant illegality. For these reasons, there must be some rationale behind Israel’s continued insistence that its attacks are upon Iranian assets. Again, at the very least, this can be explainable within the context of Israeli public opinion, especially given the probability that Israel suffered some loss of assets over the skies on that night.

FRN originally reported that on the  balance, the attack was a total failure in terms of its stated aims. It seemed retaliatory, if the reasons given are true – that they were launched in response to Iran directly flying in an arms shipment to Hezbollah over Syrian skies – and not immediately strategic to the war-aims of Israel in this conflict.

Therefore, it is impossible to determine if Israel ‘succeeded’ in any particular military-strategic aim in this mission, given there wasn’t a clear one to be had. Since Israel’s aims were political and, perhaps in some delusional sense, ‘pedagogic’, there are no clear political aims that Israel seems to have achieved. But given multiple confirmed reports that no serious damages were inflicted, and the likelihood that Israel – for some reason – lost a plane over the skies, then it is fair to say that Israel’s attack ended in failure.


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