Russia says Israel’s downing of a Russian military aircraft over the Syrian airspace earlier this month was a “cowardly” and “unprofessional” act in a yet fresh sign that shows tensions between Moscow and Tel Aviv over the incident remains strong.
“The tragedy occurred on September 17 following erroneous, unprofessional, and cowardly actions” by the Israeli military, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Italy’s Panorama magazine on Thursday.
The remarks followed comments from Damascus warning that Israel should think twice before seeking to strike targets within the Syrian territory again.
Israel, “which is accustomed to launching many aggressions under different pretexts, will have to make accurate calculations if it thinks of attacking Syria again,” Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
A day earlier, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had said that Moscow would provide the Arab country with a modern version of its S-300 missile defense system within two weeks. Shoigu also said Russia would be blocking satellite navigation, airborne radar, and communication systems of combat aviation in the eastern Mediterranean, which could prevent Israel from carrying out strikes off the Syrian coast.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Yevseyev, a Russian military expert, was quoted by Russia’s Interfax news agency as saying that the state-of-the-art S-300 system would effectively make it impossible for the Israeli air force to operate over Syria.
If deployed near Damascus, the long-range defense systems would be capable of monitoring the entire airspace over Israel, he said.
The Russian Il-20 was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defenses when it was preparing to land in Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in Latakia Province in northwestern Syria. The Syrian S-200 missile defense system was responding to a wave of strikes by four Israeli warplanes.
Moscow blamed Tel Aviv for the incident, which killed all the 15 people on board the plane, saying the Israeli military planes had deliberately “created a dangerous situation” that led to the crash. The Russian military also said the ill-fated plane was used as a cover by the Israeli air force, and that Moscow reserved the right to give a due response.
The Israeli regime has been providing various types of assistance to the foreign-backed terrorists, who have been fighting the Syrian government and people since 2011. Over the past years, it has carried out numerous strikes against Syrian army positions in what is widely viewed as an attempt to help foreign-backed terrorists survive in the face of successful Syrian army operations. The regime has also been providing generous medical treatment to the terrorists fleeing the operations into Syria’s Golan Heights, which is under the Israeli occupation.
In July, it helped evacuate hundreds of the White Helmets, a Western-backed so-called aid group, which is accused by Damascus and Moscow of staging chemical strikes and cooperating with Takfiri terrorists in Syria.
Mekdad said that the upgraded Russian weapon system would be used for defensive purposes, adding that “Syria will defend itself, as it always did.”
The official was referring to several instances when the Syrian military had confronted Israeli aggression in the past. Back in February, the Syrian military shot down an intruding Israeli F-16 warplane that had attacked positions inside the Syrian territory, sending it down in flames and smoke.