Russia turns screws on Israel, demands more lead time ahead of Syria strikes

A new demand from Moscow may threaten Israel’s freedom of operations in Syrian airspace.

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

Russia is demanding Israel provide more warning ahead of air force strikes in Syria, claiming safety reasons in the wake of the September 17th downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian forces.

Reports say Israel outright rejected the new conditions, citing a senior Israeli diplomatic source who says Russia’s demands are unacceptable from an operational standpoint. It would impair the Israel Air Force’s freedom of action in Syria, Israel’s Mako news said Wednesday.

Israel currently maintains a channel with Russia to prevent military clashes in Syria, with Israel providing Russian forces  a few minutes warning ahead of an Israeli strike in the country.

The dispute signals fraying ties between Moscow and Jerusalem, which had improved in recent years, with frequent meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Three weeks ago, Netanyahu requested another meeting with Putin, but has yet to receive a response. The prime minister’s office said that contacts between the two continue and declined comment on the contents of the report concerning new Russian demands. The Israeli defense minister’s office also refused comment.

S-300s operational?

On Tuesday, ImageSat International, a commercial satellite firm, released satellite images revealing the deployment of four Russian anti-aircraft S-300 batteries. The S-300s are set up near a more advanced S-400 battery operated by the Russians.

Russia promised to deploy S-300 batteries shortly after the July 17 incident when Syrian forces mistakenly shot down a Russian plane following an Israeli air strike. The satellite photos confirm they have followed through. Although the batteries do not appear fully operational, they may in future curtail Israel’s regional aerial supremacy.

Israel, however, maintain the batteries are not insurmountable, and says it intends to continue its operations to prevent Iran from securing its presence in Syria.