Russia: Syrian air defense nearly hit passenger plane after Israeli attack
ANNA AHRONHEIM, TAMAR BEERI, REUTERS
A passenger plane carrying 172 passengers from Tehran to Damascus made an emergency landing at the Russian-controlled Khmeimim air base on Thursday after coming under fire from Syrian air defenses.
An IAF plane takes part in the IDF’s ‘Blue Flag’ exercise. November 5th, 2017
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)
The Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow claimed that the Israeli attack on Syria, which killed at least 23 pro-Iranian gunmen in the middle of Wednesday night, put a civilian flight at risk, according to Yediot Aharonot.
A passenger plane carrying 172 passengers from Tehran to Damascus made an emergency landing at the Russian-controlled Khmeimim air base on Thursday after coming under fire from Syrian air defenses, Russia’s defense ministry said on Friday.
Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov did not name the airline but data from Flight Radar indicated it was a Syrian Cham Wings plane. The airline could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Syrian air defense was trying to repulse an Israeli attack near Damascus, Russian state news agency RIA added.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least three government Iranian positions near Damascus and west of the capital were targeted. Syria’s official SANA news agency said the Israeli strikes came in two waves and hit the al-Kiswah area as well as Marj al-Sultan and Jisr Baghdad.
The first wave at 1:12 a.m. “targeted some of our military positions in the suburbs of Damascus,” SANA quoted a military source as saying. The second wave at 1:41 a.m. “targeted military positions in the surroundings of Dara’a, Quneitra and Damascus countryside with a number of missiles fired by Israeli warplanes from the airspace in southern Lebanon and the occupied Golan.”
According to the Russian statement, F-16 jets belonging to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) shot eight air-to-ground missiles without entering Syrian airspace. Moscow blamed Israel for using the civilian aircraft “as a shield against Syrian anti-aircraft systems.”
The Syrian defense ministry, however, claimed that Syrian air defenses intercepted the Israeli missiles over Damascus that were fired at military targets.
Israel has been unofficially carrying out a war-between-wars campaign in Syria since 2013 so as to prevent the entrenchment of Iranian forces, as well as the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah.
The IDF has previously admitted to carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria since the country’s civil war broke out in 2011.
Israel has repeatedly bombed Iranian-backed militia targets in Syria, saying its goal was to end Tehran’s military presence there, which Western intelligence sources say has expanded in recent years.
Last month, the Syrian Armed Forces said IAF jets attacked the T-4 airbase in Homs province. In December, it said the air-defense system intercepted missiles fired from the direction of Israel aimed at targets on the outskirts of Damascus.