Harduf : Israeli security stands around the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel, near kibbutz of Harduf, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone it said infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets inside Syria, in its most significant engagement since the fighting in neighboring Syria began in 2011. Responding anti-aircraft fire led to the downing of an Israeli fighter plane.AP/PTI(AP2_10_2018_000180B) Image Credit: AP

The recent escalation in the region following the downing of an Israeli F-16 fighter jet by the Syrian air defence was the topic that topped the headlines in the Arabic language press across the region this week.

Palestine’s Al Quds newspaper said the shooting down of the Israeli warplane after it entered Syria’s airspace teaches Israel’s right-wing government a tough lesson — that it cannot continue with its aggression against Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian resistance in Gaza without paying the price.

Damascus’ retaliation means that any Israeli attack will no longer be tolerated but will be faced with a tough retaliation by Syria, which despite the seven-year conflict, still has the power to hit back, and will not remain silent towards the repeated incursions in its territories.

The paper believes that the downing of the Israeli warplane marks the beginning of a new strategic phase that puts an end to Israel’s violation of Syria’s airspace. Israel will have to think 10 times before launching a new attack.

In its editorial titled ‘When the rules of engagement are destroyed’ Syria’s Al Thawra newspaper rebuffed Israeli claims to justify its repeated attacks on Syria’s military forces’ positions.

Although downing the Israeli warplane does not mean an escalation toward a full-fledged war, it is a strong message that Syria will no longer accept hit-and-run attacks by Israel, which has repeatedly targeted the positions of Syrian forces during the past seven years.

The paper said that “It is not a message that we want war, but a message that next time you think about striking us, the response will be stronger than Israeli expectations.”

Israel’s reaction, however, indicated that the Zionist entity is not ready for a real war, because it knows that the ‘axis of resistance’, comprising Iran and Hezbollah, will not stand idle.

The new development breaks the stereotype that Israel can violate any Arab airspace with impunity, especially that the incidence marks the first time that an Israeli warplane has been shot down probably since the downing of an Israeli F-14 in 1982 over Lebanon.

Jordanian Arabic daily, Al Ghad said the Syrians have finally exercised what they have always described as the “right of retaliation” against airstrikes launched by the Israeli entity in Syria. Analysts believe that the timing of downing the Israeli fighter jet is attributed to several factors, including the Syrian regime’s persuasion of having achieved more victories in the domestic war.

Damascus is more interested in strengthening its internal position than opening up a new front or engaging in a war with Israel.

Analysts have long warned that President Bashar Al Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies are growing stronger in Syria. The question arises here is: Would the actual players in Syria — both Russia and Iran — have allowed the Syrian regime to use its air defences? Has the Israeli warplane been downed by Russians or Iranians?

Although Israel launched many airstrikes in Syria during the seven-year conflict, the Syrians had never retaliated — making this the first time it has hit back. What happened to cause this change of the rules of engagement? The coming days will reveal it all, the Jordanian paper concluded.

Oman’s Al Watan Arabic daily argued that the Israeli occupation entity often exchanges roles by launching repeated attacks against Syria in its pursuit to weaken Damascus. However, Syria’s decisive reply was manifested in the shooting down of Israeli F-16 fighter jet.

In doing so, Damascus has launched a new strategy that will ensure Syrian airspace is no longer exploited by Israeli warplanes. The paper says that the jet crash represented a severe blow to Israel’s prestige and could mark a major change after years during which Tel Aviv acted against targets in Syria with relative impunity.