Russia has reportedly been using the world’s largest military transport aircraft to transport S-300 missile defense systems to Syria amid tensions with Israel over the fatal crash of a Russian plane in the Arab country, which Moscow blamed on Tel Aviv.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Russia has reportedly been using the world’s largest military transport aircraft to transport S-300 missile defense systems to Syria amid tensions with Israel over the fatal crash of a Russian plane in the Arab country, which Moscow blamed on Tel Aviv.
Israel’s Ynet news site reported on Monday that the Russian-made Antonov An-124 Ruslan (also known as the Condor), which are used by the Russian Air Force as well as several cargo operators, had been spotted on the Russia-Syria air route over the past several days.
The first An-124 plane, the report said, had been spotted arriving at Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia Province on Thursday evening.
Last month, Moscow vowed to bolster Syria’s air defense capabilities by deploying the modern S-300 surface-to-air missile system to the Arab country.
The announcement came in the wake of the accidental downing of an Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft with 15 servicemen on board by Syria’s S-200 air defense systems which were at the time responding to a wave of Israeli strikes on state institutions in Latakia.
Moscow held Israel responsible for the September 17 incident, saying the regime’s pilots had intentionally used the Russian plane as cover to conduct air raids, effectively putting it in the crosshairs of the Syrian air defenses.
On Friday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Russia had begun delivering the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria.
“The delivery started already and as President (Vladimir) Putin said, after that [downing] incident ... the measures that we will take will be devoted to ensuring 100 percent safety and security of our men,” he told a news conference at the United Nations.
Moscow’s decision to supply the air defense system to Syria has raised worries in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Russia’s decision as “irresponsible,” saying Tel Aviv “will continue to do what it has to do to defend itself.”
On Saturday, a senior unnamed Israeli official admitted that Russia’s S-300 delivery to Damascus will pose a “complex challenge” to Tel Aviv.
He also stressed that Israel was working on “different ways” to deal with Russia's recent move.
“Putin made a move, but it’s a big playing field and he understands that,” the official said.
Russian jets have been targeting positions held by terror outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015. The airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance against the militants, who have been wreaking havoc in the Arab country since 2011.
On the contrary, Israel frequently attacks military targets in Syria in what is considered as an attempt to prop up militant groups that have been suffering heavy defeats against Syrian government forces.