Israeli experts fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is exploiting the downing of a Russian aircraft in Syria last week to change the rules of the game in the war-torn country.
In an exclusive conference call with The Israel Project on Monday, Ambassador Dennis Ross expressed his concern about the consequences of the incident, specifically Israel’s “freedom of action” in Syria and the transfer of the sophisticated S-300 air defense technology. Ross also said he doesn’t believe that Russia is serious about curtailing Iran’s influence in Syria.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced earlier on Monday that Moscow will soon upgrade Syria’s air defense following the downing of a Russian aircraft on September 15, 2018, with 15 Russian personnel on board.
The minister said the decision to “transfer the modern S-300 air defense system to the Syrian armed forces within two weeks” was taken by President Putin, The Times of Israel reported. Shoigi described the transfer as “response measures.”
“In regions near Syria over the Mediterranean Sea, there will be radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, on-board radar systems and communication systems of military aviation attacking objects on Syrian territory,” Shoigi added.
The Kremlin accused Israeli pilots of “premeditated actions,” warning it will harm relations between the two countries. The Israeli military, however, said that Syria’s indiscriminate air defense fire was the cause of the accident. The Il-20 electronic intelligence plane was hit 35km off Syria’s Mediterranean coast as it returned to its nearby base.
“According to information of our military experts, the reason (behind the downing) were premeditated actions by Israeli pilots which certainly cannot but harm our relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
The United States confirmed Israel’s narrative of events, saying Israeli missile strikes struck “a facility that Iran was using to house sensitive military equipment.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier said that Israel’s fighter jets “targeted a facility from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Russia first agreed to sell the S-300 system to Syria in 2010 but scrapped the plan at Israel’s behest. “We are certain that the realization of these measures will cool the ‘hot heads’ and will keep them from poorly thought-out actions which threaten our servicemen,” Shoigu observed.
Israel repeatedly warned that it will enforce its “red lines” and will not allow Iran and Hezbollah to develop a permanent military presence in Syria.
[Photo: Nrbelex / WikiCommons ]