Syria's new Russian air defences will 'make Israel think twice', warns regime

Syria's new Russian air defences will 'make Israel think twice', warns regime
A leading Damascus official has said a new air defence system, from ally Russia, will force Israel to 'think carefully' before carrying out any more air strikes in Syria.

3 min read
26 September, 2018
The new S-300 defence system is due to replace Syria's outdated Soviet era S-200 [Getty]

A new Syrian air defence system from ally Russia will force Israel to "think carefully" before carrying out any more airstrikes in the country, a top regime official said on Wednesday.

The advanced S-300 air defence system, which Moscow announced it would deliver a week after the Syrian military downed a Russian plane by mistake during an Israeli airstrike, is due to arrive within two weeks.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said Damascus welcomed the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which replaces Syria's existing Russian-built Soviet era S-200 system.

"I think that Israel, which is accustomed to carrying out many attacks under different pretexts, will have to think carefully about attacking Syria again," Mekdad said.

In recent years, Israel has carried out repeated airstrikes in war-torn Syria against Iranian targets and what is says are advanced arm deliveries to the Lebanese Hizballah group.

Iran and Hizballah are allies of President Bashar al-Assad in the seven-year civil war.

"Let the Israelis try, we will defend ourselves as we always do," the state SANA news agency quoted Meqdad as saying.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a televised speech that the decision to "transfer the modern S-300 air defence system to the Syrian armed forces within two weeks" was taken by President Vladimir Putin.

It was one of the "response measures" by Moscow following the downing of the Russian plane that killed all 15 troops on board, he added. 

Syrian military staff have already been trained to use the more advanced system, which was originally set to be sent over in 2013 but was held up "at the request of Israel", Shoigu said.

"In regions near Syria over the Mediterranean Sea, there will be radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, on-board radar systems and communication systems of military aviation attacking objects on Syrian territory."

Russia laid the blame of the downed plane squarely on Israel, saying that its fighter jet pushed the Russian aircraft into the line of fire of Syria's air defence systems.

Russian officials said Syria's outdated S-200 systems weren't sophisticated enough to identify the Russian plane as a friendly one.

The accident was the deadliest friendly fire between Syria and Russia since Moscow's game-changing military intervention in the war in 2015.

Russia launched its campaign in Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad in 2015 and though the involvement turned the tide of war in favour of Syrian regime forces. Moscow has since played a careful balancing act, maintaining good ties both with Iran and Israel.

Russia's stepped-up role in Syria enabled Assad's forces, which had been losing ground to the armed opposition, to gain the upper hand in the war and reclaim wide swathes of territory held by the rebels.

More than 360,000 people have died and millions displaced from their homes since the regime responded to anti-Assad protests in 2011 with brutal repression.

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