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‘Russian jet violated Israel’s airspace recently by accident’

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Jerusalem: Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Sunday that a Russian jet recently breached Israel’s airspace without incident.

Ya’alon, who made the comments during an interview with Israel Radio, said that the aircraft entered the airspace above northern Israel from Syria, apparently by accident, Xinhua reported.

“There was a slight intrusion about 1.5-km deep (into Israeli airspace), but the matter was immediately resolved as the Russian plane returned towards Syria,” the Israeli minister said on Sunday.

The minister said that Israel did not react, as it was aware that “Russian planes do not intend to attack us.” He did not give out specific details about when the incident occurred.

The comments were made a week after Turkey shot down a Russian jet which it claims briefly violated its airspace, causing a grave deterioration in the relations between the two countries.

Israel annexed the Golan Heights territories, along the Syrian border, in the 1967 Mideast War, and although it claims not to interfere with the civil war in Syria, it did reportedly carry out several air strikes in recent years, targeting arms transfers to the Lebanese Hezbollah organisation.

Last year, Israel shot down a Syrian jet that penetrated Israeli airspace, as well as an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Russia has been carrying out air raids in Syria since September, in a bid to crack down on terrorist groups in the country, notably the Islamic State group, while the west has accused Moscow of trying to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by bombing the rebels.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin the same month in Moscow, where the two leaders agreed on orchestrating a mechanism that would prevent accidents between Israeli and Russian forces in the area.

Israeli and Russian military representatives have held consultations in devising such a mechanism in the past two months. Netanyahu is set to meet Putin on Monday in Paris on the sidelines of a climate change summit held in the French capital.