updated 9/23/2007 3:12:26 AM ET 2007-09-23T07:12:26

Israel dispatched several fighter jets toward Syria after a Syrian aircraft disappeared from Israeli air force radar screens, Israeli military officials said Sunday.

In the incident on Saturday, the Israeli jets returned to their bases minutes later when it became clear the Syrian airplane had crashed, the officials said on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to discuss such sensitive military matters with the press.

The Israeli army did not comment on the incident.

In another incident on Thursday, Israeli fighter jets were dispatched to the northern Golan Heights, along the border with Syria, when “suspicious activity” was reported in the area, the military officials said. Later it was discovered that the objects in the air were migrating birds, the officials said.

Increasing tensions
Tensions between Israel and Syria increased this month after reports of an Israeli airstrike in northern Syria on Sept. 6. Foreign media say the Israeli target was either arms meant for Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon or a joint Syrian-North Korean nuclear project. Syria has denied both while acknowledging the strike, but Israel has refused to comment.

Israel considers Syria one of its greatest enemies and accuses Damascus of backing the militant organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

Despite the recent tensions, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week called for the reopening of peace talks, without conditions, between the two adversaries. Past negotiations broke down over Syria’s demand for the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

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