Russia on Wednesday accused Israel of endangering two civilian flights during airstrikes near an airport in Syria on Tuesday night, calling it a “provocative act” and a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
According to Syrian state media, the strikes began at about 10 p.m. and were carried out by Israel from Lebanon. It said Syria’s air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down.
“We are very concerned by the attacks and how they were made. This is a gross violation of the sovereignty of Syria,” the Russian ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.
The Russian defense ministry said earlier that two non-Russian passenger planes had been landing at the time of the strike — one in Damascus and the other in Beirut. The Syrian military didn’t fully deploy its defense systems as this could risk the safety of the flights, it added.
The defense ministry also said Syria’s air defenses successfully downed 14 of 16 guided missiles fired during the air raid, adding that six Israeli F-16 jets had taken part in the operation.
“Provocative acts by the Israeli Air Force endangered two passenger jets when six of their F-16s carried out airstrikes on Syria from Lebanese airspace,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters, according to Russia Today.
The ministry said three Syrian troops were injured in the raid, confirming a number cited earlier by Syrian TV, which also said that weapons warehouses were hit.
Ties with Moscow took a hit in September when a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard. Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.
The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.
Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.
Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, which Israeli officials have been said to refuse.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday accusing Israel of exacerbating the crisis in the country and standing in the way of the government’s war on terrorism. The Syrian regime has branded any rebel groups fighting against its rule as terrorists.
In messages sent out to the UN secretary-general and the president of the UN Security Council, the ministry said that the Israeli airstrike wouldn’t have been launched if it wasn’t for what it called “unlimited” US support for Israel.
Newsweek reported Wednesday morning that the alleged Israeli airstrike hit several senior Hezbollah officials as they boarded a plane bound for Iran, citing a US Defense Department source.
The unnamed source told the magazine he had received the information from top Israeli military brass.
He said strategic Iranian munitions were also targeted, including advanced GPS components for weaponry.
However, that report was later denied by Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen, widely regarded as pro-Hezbollah, which said no senior members of the terror group were hurt.
Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.
— Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin) December 25, 2018
Syrian media said Wednesday morning that Israel hit a base used by Hezbollah in Al-Dimas, a weapons depot at a base belonging to the Syrian army’s 4th division in Sabura and the military’s 10th Division command in Qatana.
In addition, Syrian air defenses in Attal and the 68th Brigade and 137th Battalion in Khan-al-Sheikh were also reportedly attacked, Hadashot reported.
Israel said it had deployed air defenses against a missile fired from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel the alleged airstrikes.
The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.
“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.
It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.
Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.