Russia Fires at Israeli Jets in Syria; Tensions Soar as Iran Closes In - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Russia Fires at Israeli Jets in Syria; Tensions Soar as Iran Closes In

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Edited by: TJVNews.com

Russia used advanced S-300 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 on Tuesday from Channel 13 News.

World Israel News reported that although the system was unable to lock onto the IAF jets and the aircraft were not in serious danger of being hit, this military strike could signal a significant shift in Moscow’s attitude to Israel.

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, according to a Times of Israel report.

While never officially confirming nor denying the air strikes, Israel has bombed numerous Iranian assets and targets in Syria in recent years, as was reported by WIN. Israel rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations and there was no confirmation of the raid or the S-300 launch from the IDF.

Israel targets arms shipments bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian-linked sites.

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, according to the TOI report. Satellite imagery taken after the strike showed that an underground facility had been completely destroyed.

The report comes amid a deterioration in ties between Israel and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. TOI reported that Israel has tried to walk a fine line between Moscow and Kyiv but has recently become more critical of Russia as evidence emerged of Russian atrocities and growing antisemitic rhetoric from Russian leaders.

Israeli Air Force F-35I Lightning II “Aldir” and U.S. Air Force 421st Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II fly together after refueling from a 908th Expeditionary Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender during exercise “Enduring Lightning II” over Israel on Aug. 2, 2020. Photo: Master Sgt. Patrick OReilly – AirforceMag.com

WIN reported that 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, WIN reported that 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.

The advanced anti-aircraft S-300 were donated to Syria by Moscow and are operated strictly by Russian military personnel, according to the WIN report.

The Times of Israel reported that 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 S-300 batteries also opened fire as the jets were departing the area, Channel 12 said, according to the TOI report. The report noted that Syria’s S-300 batteries are operated by the Russian military and cannot be fired without their approval.

TOI also reported that 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.

Israeli 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, as was reported by TOI.

“The State of Israel will continue to act against any enemy that threatens it, and prevent the transfer of advanced capabilities from Iran that endanger the citizens of Israel and harm the stability of the entire region,” Gantz said during a visit to the military’s Northern Command.

“We are preparing for different scenarios against our enemies in the various arenas, and against Hezbollah and Hamas, which also operates from Lebanon,” Gantz announced. “The combination of training, operational activity, and strengthening civil resilience makes up our complete concept of protecting the north and the entire State of Israel.”

The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center Institute tweeted: “In the area there is a compound of the CERS, which has been attacked in the past and is involved in the precision missile project for Hezbollah,” The research center focuses on security challenges on Israel’s northern border.

“Also in the area are warehouse complexes and bases used by the Shiite axis. Next to Masyaf are S-300 anti-aircraft batteries, which were transferred from the Russians to the Syrian army in 2018,” it added.

WIN reported that 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, as was reported by WIN.

The WIN report also indicated that 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.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other Israeli officials have repeatedly referenced the strategic importance of maintaining strong ties with Russia, according to the WIN report.

Last year, Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi and agreed that the two nations would continue to implement the mechanism, as was reported by TOI.

Bennett said at the time that Israel’s relationship with Russia is “strategic” in nature and noted the importance of the “intimate discourse” with the Russian military.

An Israeli Air Force F-35I Lightning II “Aldir” approaches a U.S. Air Force 908th Expeditionary Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender to refuel during “Enduring Lightning II” exercise over southern Israel on Aug. 2, 2020. While forging a resolute partnership, the allies train to maintain a ready posture to deter against regional aggressors. Photo: Master Sgt. Patrick OReilly – AirforceMag.com

TOI reported that 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, the report indicated.

A July 20, 2021 Associated Press report said that Syria’s air defense forces had shot down seven out of eight missiles launched by Israeli warplanes during a raid that targeted the Syrian province of Aleppo, the Russian military said.

Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit, the head of the Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, said at the time that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets targeted facilities southeast of Aleppo.

Kulit said seven of eight missiles launched by the Israeli fighter jets were downed by Syrian air defense units that used Russia-supplied air defense systems Pantsyr-S and Buk-M2, according to the AP report. One missile damaged the building of a scientific research center in Safira, he said.

The AP reported at the time that the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor that has activists on the ground in Syria, said the Israeli strikes targeted weapons depots that belong to Iranian-backed militia operating in Aleppo’s Safira region. The group said the strikes were followed by loud explosions. The weapons depots were located inside Syrian military posts, the group said.

A September 3, 2021 report by the Associated Press indicated that Syria has claimed that it shot down Israeli missiles as they approached the capital Damascus, saying it had countered an “aggression” from its longtime adversary with its own air defenses.

State news agency SANA said at the time that Syria shot down most of the missiles, which were launched from the area southeast of neighboring Lebanon and targeted areas near Damascus. It provided no further details. The AP reported at the time that the Russian military said that Syria had shot down more than 20 missiles launched from Israeli F-15 fighter jets from Lebanon’s airspace.

Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck what it says are Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanese Hezbollah. The Iran-backed militant group is fighting alongside Syrian government forces in the country’s long-running civil war.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) while accompanied by Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin who acted as a translator at Putin’s residence in Sochi, Russia on October 22, 2021. Bennett said at the time that Israel’s relationship with Russia is “strategic” in nature and noted the importance of the “intimate discourse” with the Russian military. (Kobi Gidon/GPO)

Also on Tuesday, the AP reported that Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist organization and its allies lost their parliamentary majority, final elections results showed, while more than a dozen independent newcomers gained seats. The outcome signaled a shift in a country devastated by an ongoing financial meltdown and soaring poverty.

Final results for Sunday’s elections showed no clear majority for any group, indicating a fragmented and deeply polarized parliament, divided between pro and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers who will find it difficult to work together to form a new government and enact desperately needed reforms, as was reported by the AP.

The Hezbollah-led coalition won 61 seats in the 128-member legislature, a drop of 10 members since the last vote was held four years ago – a loss largely due to setbacks suffered by the group’s political partners. The AP reported that the loss was not expected to weaken the Iran-backed group’s domination of Lebanese politics, and all 13 Hezbollah candidates who ran got elected.

Still, the results were hailed as a breakthrough for groups opposed to Hezbollah and the country’s other mainstream political parties blamed for the collapse, introducing more new independent faces than was expected, according to the AP report.

Hezbollah’s most vocal opponents, the nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces party, emerged as the biggest winner, while its Christian rival, the Free Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun, suffered a political setback.

Though Christian, the Free Patriotic Movement is an ally of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah. The AP reported that the Lebanese Forces now has the largest bloc in parliament with 21 seats, overtaking the Free Patriotic Movement, which now holds 18 seats, a drop of three seats from the previous vote.

Despite the setback, Hezbollah and its main Shiite ally, the Amal group of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, retained the 27 seats allocated to the Shiite sect, as was reported by the AP.

Independents and newcomers, including those from the 2019 protest movement, scooped 14 seats. The AP reported that this was a major achievement considering they went into the vote fragmented and facing intimidation and threats by entrenched mainstream parties.

Israeli 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. “The State of Israel will continue to act against any enemy that threatens it, and prevent the transfer of advanced capabilities from Iran that endanger the citizens of Israel and harm the stability of the entire region,” Gantz said during a visit to the military’s Northern Command. Photo Credit: AP

Their showing sends a strong message to ruling class politicians who have for decades held on to their seats and despite an economic meltdown that has impoverished the country and triggered the biggest wave of emigration since the 1975-90 civil war.

“The results show that the Lebanese mood is against this ruling class and is also against the political alignment with Iran,” said Lebanese Forces official Wissam Rajim according to the AP report. “The Lebanese know that the situation has become disastrous, and the solution is not in the hands of the ruling class.”

(Sources: World Israel News, Times of Israel, Associated Press)

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