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Russia cites ‘deep concern’ over ongoing Israeli strikes in Syria

Moscow says sorties are ‘a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty’ and could cause tensions to escalate; Russia recently began joint military jet patrols with Syrian air force

An F-35 fighter jet takes off during a surprise exercise, 'Galilee Rose,' in February 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
An F-35 fighter jet takes off during a surprise exercise, 'Galilee Rose,' in February 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Russia has expressed “deep concern” over Israel’s ongoing strikes in Syrian territory, saying they could escalate tensions in the area and endanger commercial flights.

“Israel’s continuing strikes against targets inside Syria cause deep concern,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday, according to the TASS news agency. “They are a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty and may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions. Also, such actions pose serious risks to international passenger flights.”

She added that Moscow “systematically and resolutely opposes attempts to turn Syria into a scene of armed confrontation between third countries.”

“Once again we are insistently calling upon the Israeli side to refrain from such use of force,” she said.

The IDF has conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria over the past decade in response to efforts by Iran to establish a front against Israel there and to transfer weapons through the country to its proxies in the region, particularly the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist militia.

Israel has acknowledged that it targets the bases of Iranian forces and Iran-allied terror groups, particularly along the Golan border, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has fighters deployed in southern Syria. It says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups.

File: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The latest reports of Israeli airstrikes on Syria came on Monday, when Syrian state TV said jets carried out airstrikes against targets near the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The pro-opposition group, the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, said the targets of the attack were Hezbollah positions, outposts and weapon depots, northeast of Damascus.

Russia recently announced it was carrying out joint military jet patrols with the Syrian air force of the airspace along Syria’s borders, including in the Golan Heights area, prompting speculation that Israel would be more hesitant to strike Syria.

Following the patrol, Ynet reported that Israeli military officials were holding talks with Russian army officers to calm tensions.

According to the report, Israeli officials were struggling to understand why Russia, which announced that such joint patrols were expected to be a regular occurrence moving forward, had apparently changed its policy toward Israel.

An explosion seen at the Syrian port of Latakia on December 28 2021 after an alleged Israeli strike (Screencapture/Twitter)

The report claimed, without citing a source, that Israel may limit its air campaign in Syria as a result of Russia’s move, even after discussions end.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is considered one of few allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russia is seen as using its presence in the war-torn country to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.

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