Russia criticizes Israel for airstrike against Syrian weapons depot

Moscow says the airstrike endangered civilian flights, but Israel declines comment over whether it carried out the attack.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

The Russian military on Wednesday charged that Israel was responsible for an airstrike near the Syrian capital, and said that the attack had endangered civilian flights.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 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 fighter jets, while the remaining two hit a Syrian military depot 7 kilometers (about 4.3 miles) west of Damascus, injuring three Syrian soldiers.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

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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 that Tuesday’s strike targeted three positions south of Damascus that are arms depots for Lebanon’s terrorist Hezbollah group and Iranian forces.