Russia Fires Missiles at Israeli Planes Attacking Syria
Editor’s note: “Channel 13 reported, citing ‘foreign publications’.” — I would treat it with a grain of salt. Also this presumes the S-300s that were given to Syria in 2018 are still really under Russian control.
So what happened?
In an incident which could suggest a significant shift in policy, the most recent Israeli attack on Syria, in Hama, saw Russian forces firing on them with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. The planes were not in danger, but this is the first time Russia has taken such fire on them.
Syria has a large quantity of Russian-made anti-aircraft systems, and the Syrian military itself has regularly used them to intercept missiles or chase Israeli warplanes.
Russia has provided Syria those weapons, and has provided upgraded versions like the advanced S-300. Those weapons have remained in part in Russian hands. The systems are positioned around Russian facilities in the west of the country.
Russia has at times objected to Israeli attacks in Syria, and ordered them away from the coast. Israel sometimes claims an “understanding,” though this firing suggests that understanding is increasingly limited.
Russia sends warning shot in #Syria to Israel not to back Ukraine & US against RU.
Israel's bombing raids in Syria to destroy Iranian and Hizb backed positions depend on RU permission. https://t.co/yrsCV3I0iN
— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) May 17, 2022
S-300s are a very capable sort of anti-aircraft missiles, and capable of threatening Israeli warplanes all over Syrian airspace. This is clearly a fight Israel wouldn’t want.
It may be too soon to draw any conclusions on this, but Israel is likely to be more reticent on casually striking Syria in the near future if they aren’t sure of the response they will get.
Source: The Times of Israel
According to the unsourced report, the unprecedented incident occurred on Friday night, when the Israeli Air Force bombed several targets near the city of Masyaf in northwestern Syria.
At least five people were killed and seven were hurt in the airstrike, Syria’s state news agency said. Other media in the country said six were killed, all crew members of a Pantsir air defense system who attempted to take down the Israeli missiles.
The report said the Syrian military fired off dozens of anti-aircraft missiles, which have been largely ineffective at halting the hundreds of Israeli strikes on Syria in recent years.
However, this time the S-300 batteries also opened fire as the jets were departing the area, Channel 12 said. The report noted that Syria’s S-300 batteries are operated by the Russian military and cannot be fired without their approval.
The report said that the S-300 radar did not manage to lock onto the Israeli jets and thus did not present a serious threat to the IAF fighter jets. [Or it was fired without a lock intentionally.]
If confirmed, however, this would mark the first use of the S-300s against the IAF over Syria and would be a worrying development for Israel, which has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria in the course of the country’s civil war and since, targeting what it says are arms shipments bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian-linked sites.
Israel rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations and there was no confirmation of the raid or the S-300 launch from the IDF.
The Channel 13 report said it was not immediately clear if the S-300 missile fire was a one-time event or if it was a Russian signal to Israel that it was changing its policy.
The Masyaf area is thought to be used as a base for Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias and has been repeatedly targeted in recent years in attacks attributed to Israel. Satellite imagery taken after the strike showed that an underground facility had been completely destroyed.
Beyond providing Syria with its air defenses, Moscow also maintains state-of-the-art S-400 air defense systems to protect its own assets in Syria, but has never turned them on Israeli planes.
Without specifically mentioning the incident, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday said Israel would not be deterred and vowed to prevent Iran from transferring “advanced capabilities” to other entities in Syria.
In 2018, Russia provided the advanced S-300 air defense system to Syria’s military free of charge, transferring three battalions with eight launchers each to the Assad regime despite strenuous objections from Israel and the US.
Russia’s delivery of the S-300 system to Syria followed the downing of a Russian spy aircraft by Syrian forces that were responding to an Israeli strike over Syrian airspace. Russia blamed Israel for the incident, which killed 15 Russian crew members.
Israel and its allies for years has lobbied Russia not to give Syria and other regional players the S-300 system, arguing that it would limit Israel’s ability to neutralize threats, including by Hezbollah.