First Published: 2017-03-20

Russia summoned Israeli ambassador over Syria air strikes
Israeli ambassador to Russia Gary Koren summoned on Friday, 'asked about' strikes close to Moscow's forces near historic Syrian city of Palmyra.
Middle East Online

Russian President Vladimir Putin receives Israeli ambassador to Russia Gary Koren

MOSCOW - A senior army officer said Monday that Israel had fired its Arrow missile at a Syrian rocket which posed a "ballistic threat" during clashes over the weekend.

Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria on Friday, drawing retaliatory missile fire, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the start of the Syrian war six years ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the air strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah, and that Israel would do the same again if necessary.

Syria's military launched anti-aircraft missiles at the attackers and said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they carried out pre-dawn strikes near the desert city of Palmyra.

Israel denied any of its aircraft was hit.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defence systems "without the slightest hesitation" if they fired on Israeli planes in future.

During the sortie, Israel threw its Arrow interceptor into the fray to take out what the officer said Monday was believed to have been a Russian-made SA 5 missile.

"It was a ballistic threat focused on the state of Israel," he said, speaking in English to foreign media on condition of anonymity.

"Our mission is to defend the state and the people of Israel," he added. "That was exactly the case last week."

Former prime minister and defence minister Ehud Barak has questioned the wisdom of the Arrow launch, saying it may have escalated tensions with Syria in too public a manner.

Missile fragments fell in Jordan, which borders both Israel and Syria, without causing casualties.

But the Israeli officer said Monday that the Syrian missile, weighing "tonnes and carrying hundreds of kilos of explosives" had posed a threat that could not have been ignored.

"Try to imagine the meaning if this kind of threat would hit the cities and towns of Israel," he said.

Launching the Arrow, jointly developed by the United States and Israel, was "a correct and effective solution", he added.

-Russia summons ambassador-

Russia's foreign ministry on Monday said it had summoned Israel's ambassador over the strikes close to Moscow's forces near the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.

Deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Interfax news agency that Ambassador Gary Koren was summoned on Friday and "asked about" the strikes.

The ministry "expressed concern" about the action taking place near Russian military locations, Bogdanov said.

Russia -- which is conducting its own bombing campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad -- said earlier this month that more than 180 of its troops have started demining around Palmyra's ancient monuments.

Russia and Israel have set up a "hotline" aimed at avoiding air clashes over Syria and Bogdanov said Moscow "would like this channel to work more effectively" to ensure no "misunderstanding on who is doing what."

Russia has deployed its own high-tech missile defence systems to Syria to protect its forces there.

 

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