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Syrian, Russian fighter jets stage joint air patrol mission over occupied Golan Heights

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This picture shows Russia’s Sukhoi Su-34 twin-engine fighter bombers as well as two Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter aircraft belonging to the Syrian Air Force during joint air force patrols over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Photo by TASS news agency)

Russia’s Defense Ministry says Russian and Syrian fighter jets have conducted a joint air patrol mission in the airspace along the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the Euphrates River.

“The mission’s route ran along the Golan Heights, the southern order, the Euphrates River and over northern Syria. While Russian pilots took off from Hmeimim air base, Syrians were deployed from Sayqal and al-Dumayr military airports outside Damascus,” the ministry said in a statement.

The statement added that the mission involved Russia’s Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 twin-engine fighter bombers as well as Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, besides Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 and Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter aircraft belonging to the Syrian Air Force.

“During the patrol mission, Syrian pilots controlled airspace and provided aerial cover, while Russian crews practiced attacks on ground targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry noted.

“The two countries’ pilots practiced skills for cooperation in various situations. Similar patrols will be staged on a regular basis in the future,” the statement stressed.

In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories, during which it occupied a large swathe of Golan and annexed it four years later – a move never recognized by the international community.

In 1973, another war broke out; and a year later a UN-brokered ceasefire came into force, according to which Tel Aviv and Damascus agreed to separate their troops and create a buffer zone in the Heights. However, Israel has over the past several decades built dozens of illegal settlements in Golan in defiance of international calls for the regime to stop its illegal construction activities.

In a unilateral move rejected by the international community in 2019, former US president Donald Trump signed a decree recognizing Israeli “sovereignty” over Golan.

Nevertheless, Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over Golan, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.

The United Nations has also time and again emphasized Syria’s sovereignty over the territory.

Speaking at a UN Security Council session on Wednesday on the “Situation in the Middle East,” Syria's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bassam Sabbagh reiterated his country’s right to fully take back the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights through all possible means guaranteed by international law, emphasizing that all measures taken by the occupying Tel Aviv regime to change the legal status of the Syrian territory are null and void and have no legal effect under UN resolutions.

Sabbagh pointed out that Syria has sent several letters to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other relevant officials to inform them of developments in the occupied Golan Heights, and to warn them against threats of recurring Israeli acts of aggression to the stability of Syria and the Middle East region.

The senior Syrian diplomat stressed that the Damascus government strongly condemns flagrant violations being committed by the Israeli regime in the Golan Heights, including its land expropriation policies, imposition of demographic changes and theft of its natural resources.

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