Russia: Israeli strike on Syria threatened flights
Beirut – The Russian military on Wednesday criticized an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital, saying it has endangered civilian flights.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that six Israeli F-16 jets launched the “provocative” raid at the moment when two civilian airliners were preparing to land in Damascus and Beirut, creating a “direct threat” to the aircraft.
Konashenkov said the Syrian military didn’t fully engage its air defense assets to avoid accidentally hitting the passenger jets. He added that Syrian air traffic controllers redirected the Damascus-bound plane to the Russian air base in Hemeimeem in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia.
Konashenkov said the Syrian air defense forces shot down 14 of the 16 precision-guided bombs dropped by the Israeli jets, while the remaining two hit a Syrian military depot about 4.3 miles west of Damascus, injuring three Syrian soldiers.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
It wasn’t clear if the Syrian military used any of the advanced S-300 air defense missile systems that Russia delivered in October to beef up its air defenses. The move followed the Sept. 17 downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian forces responding to an Israeli air raid, an incident that strained previously warm ties between Russia and Israel.
Israel is widely believed to have been behind a series of past airstrikes that targeted Iranian and Hezbollah forces fighting alongside the government in Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said Tuesday’s Israeli strike targeted three positions south of Damascus that are arms depots for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and Iranian forces.