In response to an Israeli airstrike in Syria last Tuesday, Russia threatened to respond to further Israeli action in Syria with surface-to-surface missiles against targets inside Israel. An Israeli military intelligence website reported that one such missile was already fired last week.
On Wednesday, Israeli authorities broke with protocol and confirmed that the IDF was responsible for an airstrike the previous night targeting three main sites that were actively involved in Iranian arms transfers to the Hezbollah. Among the weapons targeted by the Israeli strike were GPS-guided missiles.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov made a statement to the press on Wednesday that six Israeli F-16 jets carried out the attack, which he described as “provocative.” Konashenkov claimed that as the attack began, two Syrian civilian airliners were preparing to land in Damascus and Beirut. He claimed the IAF attack created a “direct threat” to the aircraft, forcing the Syrian air defense to curtail their response to the Israeli strike by not deploying electronic jamming or surface-to-air missiles.
Konashenkov said that despite their limited response, the Syrian air defenses shot down 14 of the 16 precision-guided bombs dropped by the Israeli jets. He said that the remaining two bombs hit a Syrian military four miles west of Damascus.
Though Israel has admitted to carrying out hundreds of such strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah military targets in Syria, presumably with tacit if not explicit approval from Russia, IDF activity has curtailed since September when the Syrian army shot down a Russian military plane in the wake of an Israeli airstrike.
Debka File, an English language Israeli military intelligence website, reported that the Russian government threatened to fire SA-5 missiles into central Israel in retaliation to any further Israeli airstrikes in Syria. According to Debka, one such missile was fired at Haifa on during Tuesday night’s airstrike and the Russian-made missile succeeded in evading Israeli air-defenses, landing outside the city in an unpopulated area of Mount Carmel.
Lebanon’s Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos confirmed Russia’s claims, saying that two civilian airliners airplanes in Lebanese airspace “narrowly” avoided IAF jets. Fenianos said Lebanon will present a complaint to the UN Security Council.
An anonymous Israeli official told ABC News that the civilian air traffic was endangered by the Syrian air defenses that fired 30 missiles in response to the airstrike. He also claimed that Iranian forces are operating less than 50 miles from the Israeli border, contrary to Russian assurances that they would prevent this from happening.
He reported that the Israeli air strike succeeded in hitting all of the intended targets, which included a Syrian anti-aircraft battery.
Newsweek reported that a flight carrying senior Hezbollah leaders to Damascus airport was targeted in the air strike as well. The group was en route to Tehran.