If advanced Russian surface to air missiles, slated to be provided to the Bashar Assad regime, are used against Israel, they will be destroyed, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday in an interview with the Hebrew-language Ynet website, following reports that Moscow is poised to supply Damascus with the S-300 SAM system.
“One thing needs to be clear,” Liberman said. “If someone fires at our planes, we will destroy them. We don’t interfere in Syria’s internal affairs, but on the other hand, we will not allow Iran to swamp Syria with advanced weapons systems aimed against Israel. If they shoot at us we will respond. It doesn’t matter if it’s the S-300 or the S-700 or any other system.”
Former head of military intelligence Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin told Tazpit Press Service on Monday that Israel has been concerned about the introduction of advanced anti-aircraft technology in Syria for 15 years, but said the issue had become more urgent following a report in the Russian daily Kommersant that Moscow was considering delivering the advanced S-300 system to Syria in the foreseeable future. According to Kommersant, Russian officials also warned of “catastrophic” consequences for all sides should Israel attack the missile batteries.
Reuters later reported that Israeli diplomats had asked Russia not to supply the system, and Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that no decision had been taken with regard to delivery of the S-300 to Syria.
Liberman noted to Ynet that Russia already has advanced SAM systems in Syria protecting its own troops in the country and that they had not been used against Israel or impeded Israel’s operations over the country.
“The Russian systems are already in Syria and they are not operated against us. We have an open line of communication [to Moscow] and we have a forthright dialogue. Sometimes things are very complex, but we are in conversation with the Russians and we have been coordinated for several years [since Russia intervened in the Syrian Civil War in 2015] and we have managed to prevent conflict. The Russian systems do not operate against us. The only ones operating against us are Syria and when Syrian systems have operated against us, we have destroyed them.”