Syria says S-300 defense system will make Israel rethink airstrikes

Deputy foreign minister claims Russian-supplied air-defense batteries, which Jerusalem says could endanger region, will only be used if Syria attacked

A Russian-made S-300 air defense system is on display for the annual Defense Week, marking the 37th anniversary of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, September 24, 2017. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
A Russian-made S-300 air defense system is on display for the annual Defense Week, marking the 37th anniversary of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, September 24, 2017. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

BEIRUT — A senior Syrian official said Israel should think carefully before attacking Syria again once it obtains the sophisticated S-300 defense system from Russia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said late Tuesday that the S-300 should have been given to Syria long ago.

Israel, “which is accustomed to launching many aggressions under different pretexts, will have to make accurate calculations if it thinks to attack Syria again,” he said, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.

Mekdad’s comments, which were widely covered by Russian state media, came as Israel and the US raised fears over Moscow’s plans to supply the advanced air defense system to Syria following last week’s downing of a Russian plane by Syria forces responding to an Israeli airstrike.

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

The Russian Il-20 military reconnaissance aircraft was downed by Syrian air defenses trying to repel the Israeli strike on a weapons warehouse, killing all 15 people on board.

Mekdad said the S-300, which has a range that could reach deep into Israel airspace, would only be used if Syria is attacked, according to the Xinhua report.

In this file photo taken August 27, 2013, a Russian S-300 air defense system is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

Israel has carried our hundreds of attacks against Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria over the last several years, with fighter jets going nearly unchallenged by the country’s air defenses.

Jerusalem has vowed to prevent Lebanon-based Hezbollah or Iranian proxy militias in Syria from obtaining advance weapons that could threaten the Jewish state and has worked to keep Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria that can be used to attack Israel.

Russia, which is a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has maintained a deconfliction hotline with Israel, allowing the Jewish state to carry out the attacks as long as it was informed beforehand.

The future of that program has been under a cloud since the September 17 incident, which occurred as four Israeli fighter jets conducted an airstrike on the weapons warehouse near the coastal city of Latakia, which the IDF said was going to provide weapons to the Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian proxies.

Moscow has accused Israel of using the IL-20 spy plane as a shield after the attack, rejecting Israel’s claims that poorly trained Syrian air defense operators are to blame.

Israel also notified the Russians 12 minutes before the attack — far longer than Moscow claims.

Both Israel and the US have warned Russia it would be “a major mistake” to supply Syria with S-300 batteries, one of the world’s most advanced air defense systems.

Russia has said it will make the delivery within two weeks.

Israeli fighter pilots have trained for years for evading S-300 air defense missiles.

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