According to reports in a Russian paper, Moscow will deliver the advanced anti-aircraft system to Syria “soon”, and warned Israel to stay away.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Senior Russian officials told the Kommersant newspaper on Monday that following the April 14th missile strike on Syrian facilities by an American, French and British task force, Russia will be bringing its S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system to Syria “soon” to protect its ally from further attack.
According to the report, the Russians won’t even charge Syria for it.
Russian defense officials warned Israel that if it “decides to carry out rocket strikes on the deployment locations of the S-300, the consequences will be catastrophic for all sides.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov then appeared to backtrack slightly later in the day, saying that Russia had not yet decided whether it would deliver the system to Syria, but that it would not make a secret of the matter if it took such a decision, the TASS news agency reported.
Russia is furious with the Western allies for having reacted militarily to the chemical attack Syrian President Bashar Assad had allegedly ordered against a rebel-held enclave that killed dozens and injured hundreds. Both Syria and Russia deny that chemical weapons had been used at the site in Douma, but did not allow outside inspectors in for weeks, which could have allowed the allies to clear the area of damning evidence.
On the same day as the strike, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov made a statement in which he said that the attack was considered a threat against Russia. He warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences,” and “all responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”
The S-300 can engage multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 300 km (186 miles) away and is considered an extremely advanced system that would be a significant upgrade to Syria’s defensive capabilities. Israel had been so concerned about it that Jerusalem made a huge effort to convince Russia not to sell it to Syria a few years ago because it would make a successful air strike much more difficult to achieve.
Russia is well aware that Israel considers the deployment of this system in Syria crossing a red line. To date, Israel has managed to carry out well over 100 strikes in Syria on terror targets with Russia turning a blind eye.
However, until now Israel has never targeted Russian personnel or bases in Syria. According to the report’s unnamed Russian defense officials, “If Israel decides to carry out rocket strikes on the deployment locations of the S-300, the consequences will be catastrophic for all sides.”
Israeli officials, for their part, have not said they cannot overcome the S-300’s defenses. In fact, according to a 2015 Reuters report, Israel practiced defeating the Russian defense system during joint air drills in Greece that year, as Athens has such a system on the island of Crete. No official confirmation of this was made at the time.