By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Russia used advanced anti-aircraft missiles to target Israeli jets carrying out airstrikes in Syria, marking a major departure from a previous policy of essentially allowing the Israeli Air Force free reign to operate in the area, according to a report from Channel 13 News.
While never officially confirming nor denying the air strikes, Israel has bombed numerous Iranian assets and targets in Syria in recent years.
Russia, which has partnered with embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, has de facto control over Syrian airspace and until now has not interfered in IAF bombing missions.
According to the report, the IAF targeted a number of sites in northwestern Syria last Friday evening.
In a statement after the air raid, Syrian military forces said they launched dozens of anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli aircraft. Those missiles are not advanced enough to pose a risk to the IAF.
But, Channel 13 noted, S-300 batteries also fired on Israeli jets. The advanced anti-aircraft S-300 were donated to Syria by Moscow and are operated strictly by Russian military personnel.
Although the system was unable to lock onto the IAF jets and the aircraft were not in serious danger of being hit, the move may signal a serious shift in Russian policy regarding Israeli activity in Syria.
In February 2022, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova spoke out against IAF airstrikes in Syria in an unprecedented public statement denouncing Israel.
“Israel’s continuing strikes against targets inside Syria cause deep concern. They are a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty and may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions,” she said.
In January 2022, Hezbollah-affiliated Lebansese newspaper Al-Akhbar newspaper said that Syria and its allies, including Iran, expressed deep dissatisfaction with the Russians, demanding that Russia stop allowing IAF air strikes in Syrian territory.
Syria and its allies would “be forced to react to the airstrikes if it doesn’t restrain Israel,” they reportedly warned Russia.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other Israeli officials have repeatedly referenced the strategic importance of maintaining strong ties with Russia.
Israeli commentators and analysts have said that Moscow’s policy of permitting IAF raids in Syria is one reason why the Jewish state has been reticent to formally support Ukraine or transfer military aid to the country.