TEL AVIV (May. 25)
Israel claimed today that it shot down two Syrian MIG-21 fighters that attempted to interfere with a routine reconnaissance flight by Israeli Air Force jets over Beirut. All Israeli aircraft returned safely to their bases, a military spokesman said.
Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan said later that he did not think the aerial dogfight would cause the situation in Lebanon to deteriorate. He denied reports that the Israeli planes had been flying over Syrian anti-aircraft missile installations in the Beka valley of eastern Lebanon.
Eitan said the planes were over Beirut on a “legitimate reconnaissance” mission and admonished the Syrians for trying to interfere with such “legal” flights. He said Palestinians in southern Lebanon often fired at Israeli reconnaissance aircraft. The flights will continue because they are essential for intelligence purposes, Eitan said.