Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility Saturday for the downing of a Russian warplane in northern Syria, apparently using a surface-to-air missile to target the aircraft.
The pilot was killed after he ejected and exchanged gunfire with militants on the ground, the Russian Defense Ministry and a monitoring group said.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, a powerful rebel alliance that publicly split from al-Qaeda last year, said it had used a shoulder-fired weapon to down the Su-25 fighter jet as it flew low over the opposition-held town of Saraqeb.
It also raises questions about the source of the apparent “man-portable air-defense system,” or MANPADS, a shoulder-fired weapon for which Syria’s rebels have repeatedly pleaded from their international backers. The United States has been strongly opposed, fearing that antiaircraft weapons could fall into the hands of the country’s extremist groups.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said any allegation that the United States has provided MANPAD missiles in Syria was untrue, and she denied that U.S. equipment was used in shooting down the Russian plane.
Considering the fact that the CIA has been supporting groups that the US military has been attacking, so take that with a grain of salt.
The rather more shocking news today though is that Israel has been conducting airstrikes in the Sinai with the affirmative assent of the Egyptian government:
The jihadists in Egypt’s Northern Sinai had killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, briefly seized a major town and begun setting up armed checkpoints to claim territory. In late 2015, they brought down a Russian passenger jet.
Egypt appeared unable to stop them, so Israel, alarmed at the threat just over the border, took action.
For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.
The Israeli airstrikes are not that unusual, but the fact that there has been official (though not public)n approval, and not just grudging acknowledgement, of the Egyptian government.
The obvious conclusion here is that the Egyptian Government (particularly el-Sisi) is desperate, which indicates that the government is far less secure than it would like to proclaim.