Tel Aviv (dpa) – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during the night between Thursday and Friday morning that he had no knowledge of Israeli fighter jets entering Syrian airspace.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” he told Israeli reporters on leaving a convention of his ruling centrist Kadima party in a scant first reaction to the report.
Thus far, Olmert’s office and the Israeli military have refused to issue an official reaction to the Syrian report that Israeli fighter jets infiltrated into Syrian airspace through its north-western borders from the Mediterranean Sea after Wednesday midnight.
An Israeli military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, would only say that Syria was exploiting the report “to depict Israel as an aggressive nation,” Israel Radio reported.
The source said he estimated the incident would not deteriorate into a military conflict, but the report has featured high in the regional media, with Israeli analysts at length attempting to shed light on the alleged incident and the lack of either an official Israeli denial or confirmation.
It comes after widespread speculation and fears in the area of a war erupting this summer between Syria and Israel, with Israeli officials making a point of sending repeated reassuring messages to Damascus that it had no plans to attack.
Large-scale military exercises conducted by the Jewish state were aimed at implementing lessons from last summer’s war with the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, the messages assured.
The Israeli military even said it would move training exercises held on the occupied Golan Heights to elsewhere in the country to lower the tensions.
Israeli intelligence officials also said they also believed Syrian steps to modernize its army were preemptive.
Syria’s official news agency SANA announced in the early afternoon Thursday that “after Wednesday midnight Israeli fighter jets infiltrated into the Syrian spaces through the north-western borders from the (Mediterranean) sea (near Lattakia).”
The jets were were met “by our air defences and forced to retreat after delivering some of its ammunition into an open area without being able to make any damages in persons or property.”
The agency quoted a military spokesman as saying the “Syrian Arab Republic warns the government of the Israeli enemy of this flagrant aggressive act and keeps its right to respond in the way it sees suitable.”