Satellite imagery of S-300 air defense batteries in Syria appears to show that the advanced systems provided to the Assad regime by Russia are not yet operational, an Israeli satellite imaging company said.
Images taken over Masyaf, an area in northwest Syria where numerous purported Israeli strikes have occurred against strategic targets, show that the missile launchers are not yet erected, ImageSat International said.
In addition several elements such as radar remain covered with camouflage nets.
“It is probable that the new Syrian S-300 deployment isn’t yet operational,” according to the company, which interprets visual intelligence.
It was not clear what the status of other batteries deployed in the country was.
Russia delivered the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft batteries to Syria last month following the downing of a Russian military plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli strike on Iranian targets in Syria the month before.
In addition to four interceptor missile launchers, Moscow also provided Syria with new radars, targeting systems and command centers.
Syria’s long-time ally Russia blamed Israel for the downing of the plane and the deaths of the 15 Russian servicemen on board — a charge rejected by Jerusalem. Jerusalem has also rebuffed a Russian claim that Israeli fighter jets hid behind the Russian reconnaissance aircraft following their attack.
The Syrian military earlier this month said the S-300 air defense systems would largely stop Israel from successfully conducting strikes against targets in the country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month told Russia that Israel must continue to hit hostile targets in Syria to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence across the border.
While there has been a noticeable drop in reported Israeli raids following the September 17 plane incident, a senior Israeli official last month said the Jewish state has in fact continued attacking targets in Syria.
Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in neighboring Syria against Iran-linked targets in recent years and has accused Tehran — which like Moscow supports the Syrian regime in the seven-year civil war — of seeking to entrench itself militarily in the country.
Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.