Russia To Send Advanced Anti-Aircraft Missiles To Syria, Warns Israel Of “Catastrophic Consequences”
Israel continues ratcheting up its rhetoric this week in response to Russia’s Defense Ministry signaling it will likely move forward in arming Syria with the advanced S-300 missile defense system, bringing both Israeli and Lebanese airspace to within targeting range of Syrian missiles.
On Tuesday Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in unambiguous terms that his country would attack such missile sites should Russia move forward on supplying them.
Liberman told Israel’s YNet, “What’s important to us is that the defensive weapons the Russians are giving Syria won’t be used against us,” and threatened further, “one thing should be clear: If someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past years of war in Syria – of which Israel is a significant player, especially given its longtime support of al-Qaeda linked anti-Assad insurgents to the south of Damascus – made it clear that transfer of the S-300 would constitute a “red line” on which Israel would act.
In 2013, when Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly first considered the move, marking a major and exceptionally advanced update to Syria’s current Soviet-era deterrent systems, Netanyahu warned, “We’ll destroy your missiles if you deliver them to Assad.” He said that Israel would hit them before the system came online.
Though displaying an early reluctance to derail its delicate diplomatic relationship with Israel, Russia changed its tune on the very morning after the US-led coalition strike took place overnight on April 13. Russia’s first deputy chief of staff, Sergei Rudskoi, said at the time that Russia would “reconsider” whether to supply the air defenses to Assad – an issue previously thought dead as a result of prior Israeli-Russian summits in Sochi.