A senior defense ministry official has said that Russian jets occasionally cross into Israeli airspace as part of operations in Syria, but that close cooperation between Jerusalem and Moscow has prevented any potentially deadly misunderstandings.
General (res.) Amos Gilad, who is a close aide of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, made the comments during the weekly Shabbatarbut event in Tel Aviv Saturday.
Gilad said that despite the bluster from Ankara, Turkey "has every reason to apologize" for downing a Russian military jet last Tuesday, describing the incident as a major blunder by the Islamist AKP government.
He noted that such an incident could not however occur along Syria's southern border with Israel, given the very close cooperation between Russia and Israel vis-a-vis operations in and around Syria. Israeli jets have struck Syrian targets on several occasions to prevent sophisticated weaponry heading to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In the course of operations in southern Syria "Russian air force planes occasionally cross into Israeli airspace," he noted, adding that due to "the excellent defense cooperation" reached between Netanyahu and Putin, Israeli and Russian forces were aware of "clear boundaries" and had strong mechanisms in place to ensure that no deadly misunderstanding ensue.
The military cooperation is mutually-beneficial, he explained.
"According to the understandings reached with the Russians, the (Israeli) air force retains the freedom to operate in order to prevent the transfer of weapons which originate from Iran into the hands of Hezbollah."
He also noted that Syria had essentially ceased to exist as a state, which the Assad regime controlling only around a quarter of the country.
"Syria is dead as a state; there is territory but no state. Assad receives a salary but no longer rules the country."