Israel Air Strikes Wiped Out Russian Hardware For Thwarting US No-Fly Zone Plan Over Syria
Israel’s air strikes near Damascus international air port and the Syrian-Lebanese border Sunday, Dec. 7, are depicted by Middle East military and intelligence sources as Israel’s first overt military clash with Russia in the course of the more than three-year Syrian war.
Those sources assert that the strikes demolished components of Russian SA-25 or other types of top-line anti air missile systems that Moscow had destined for Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist group after Russian President Vladimir Putin learned that the Obama administration and the Erdogan government were close to a final draft on a joint effort to activate a no-fly zone that would bar Syrian air force traffic over northern Syria.
Russian transport planes are said to have shipped these consignments in the last few days to the military section of Damascus international airport. It was pointed out that the Israeli air strikes occurred less than 24 hours after Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin’s point man for the Syrian war, met with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah Saturday in Beirut. The Russians for the first time insisted on widely circulating photos of the two officials shaking hands.
DEBKAfile’s sources have learned that Moscow has been looking for a reckoning with the US and Israel over the fall in the last week of October of the large Russian intelligence post at Tel a-Hara in southern Syria to Syrian rebel units.. One of the most highly sophisticated Russian intelligence bases outside its borders, the secret site was located strategically close to the junction of Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel.
The prized hi-tech apparatus, much of it unfamiliar to Western spy agencies, was quickly shipped out of Syria for examination in the West.
The Kremlin has repeatedly warned – of late in strong messages through back channels – that the establishment of a no-fly or buffer zone in any part of Syria would be treated as direct American intervention in the Syria war and result in Russian military intervention for defending the Assad regime.
According to the US-Turkish draft, American warplanes would be allowed to take off from the Turkish airbase of Incirlik in the south for operations against Syrian warplanes, assault helicopters or drones entering the no-go zone. Thus far, Ankara has only permitted US surveillance aircraft and drones the use of Incirlik for tracking the movements of Islamic State fighters in northern Syria.
The Obama administration was long deterred from implementing a no-fly zone plan by the wish to avoid riling Moscow or facing the hazards of Syria’s world-class air defense system.
But Washington was recently won over to the plan by a tacit deal with Damascus for American jets to be allowed entry to help Kurdish fighters defend their northern Syrian enclave of Kobani against capture by al Qaeda’s IS invaders.
However, the US administration turned down a Turkish demand to extend the no-fly zone from their border as far as Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, over which Syrian army forces are battling rebels and advancing slowly into the town.
Other Israeli air force targets struck near Damascus airport in Sunday’s raid were the 103rd brigade of the 4th Division, which is the Syrian president’s republican guard, and the same division’s logistic rear base at Dimas near the Lebanese border.
The fact that Israel conducted air strikes against two facilities of the same Syrian army division along the route to Lebanon indicates that the targeted weapons were on their way from Syria to Hizballah strongholds in Lebanon.
Moscow reacted swiftly and angrily with a Note to the United Nations Monday accusing Israel of “aggressive action” and demanding “that such attacks should not happen again… Moscow is deeply worried by this dangerous development, the circumstances of which demand an explanation.”
The Assad regime has held back from reacting to past Israeli air raids for preventing advanced weaponry from reaching Hizballah. This time, spokesmen in Damascus warned that their government’s response would be clandestine and cause Israel “unimaginable harm.”