Syria Starts Aerial Dogfight with Israeli Jets to Prove to Geneva Summit the Mideast’s Instability

An aerial dogfight in which Israeli jets shot down two Syrian MIGs over Lebanon today was initiated by the Syrians to capture the attention of the Geneva summit meeting and demonstrate to the U.S. and Soviet Union the instability of the Middle East, political sources said here tonight.

The sources said the Syrians were hoping to increase the involvement of the two superpowers in the Middle East conflict. The Middle East is expected to come up in the talks between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tomorrow during a session in which “regional conflicts” are on the agenda. (See separate story.)

An Israeli military spokesman said the Syrian jets, identified as up-dated versions of the Sovietbuilt MIG-23 acquired by Damascus after the Lebanon war, attempted to interfere with Israeli aircraft on a routine reconnaissance flight over Lebanon. They were downed by air-to-air missiles and crashed inside Syria. The Israeli planes returned safely to their bases, the spokesman said.

The Israel Air Force flies reconnaissance missions over Lebanon several times a week. When informed of today’s action, while visiting the Negev, Premier Shimon Peres remarked, “well done.” He said the Air Force showed it is fully capable of defending Israel.

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir referred to the Geneva summit today when he said, during a tour of the Yavne industrial zone, that Israel would not permit the U.S. and USSR to solve its problems, and certainly not impose their initiatives on Israel. The initiatives must come from the countries of the region in the course of direct negotiations, he said.

NEXT STORY