Syrian Army claims S-300 air defenses keeping Israel at bay

Military official says advanced Russian-supplied anti-aircraft batteries haven’t made it impossible for IDF to strike Iranian targets, but have ‘minimized’ chances of success

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Screen capture from video showing the delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Syria. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video showing the delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Syria. (YouTube)

The Syrian military on Thursday said the S-300 air defense systems it received from Russia were largely stopping Israel from successfully conducting strikes against targets in the country.

“There is no concept of zero probability in military strategy. We cannot say that this probability has been reduced to zero,” Brig. Gen. Hasan Ahmad Hasan, head of the Syrian Army’s political bureau, told the Kremlin-backed Sputnik news site.

“I cannot say that in the end there will not be such a probability; however, the probability of this aggression achieving its goals has been minimized,” he said.

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.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International on October 24, 2018, which are said to show a site near the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf where Russian-made S-300 air defense systems were deployed. (ImageSat International)

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.

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 incident, a senior Israeli official last month said the Jewish state has in fact continued attacking targets in Syria.

Above: Delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Syria, October 3, 2018.

On Wednesday, the incoming United States envoy for Syria said he hoped to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to Israeli airstrikes on Iranian assets 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.

“In the past Russia has been permissive in consultation with the Israelis about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria,” US envoy James Jeffrey said.

“We certainly hope that that permissive approach will continue,” he told journalists in a conference call.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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