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Russia stationed S-300 in Tartus, Syrian officers not allowed to operate the system: source

(Zmaan Al Wasl)- A well-informed military source said Russia had stationed the S-300 surface-to-air missile system in an air defense battalion in Tartus province, where Syrian officers are not allowed to operate the system now in the near future.

Four Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircrafts delivered the system during the week to Battalion 37 in the Assad’d family stronghold in coastal region in new security measures following the downing of a Russian plane last month.

The Syrian Air Forces has recalled all officers who got trained on the S-300 systems in Russia to follow training in the Russian Hmeimym air base, according to the source.

Russian Defence Minister Sergi Shoigu on Tuesday said at a meeting of the country's security council that its army had "finished the deliveries of S-300 systems" including a total of four launch platforms.

Shoigu said it would take three months to train the Syrian military to operate the new air defence systems, while the integration of Russian and Syrian air defence assets into a single automated system will be completed by October 20.

"We now control a close zone of up to 50km (30 miles) and the far zone of 200km (124 miles) from where attacks on the Syrian territory were launched," Shoigu said.

Russia, a key ally of Bashar al-Assad, joined the seven-year war in 2015.

The decision to deliver the modern defense system was reached following the shooting down of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which was accidentally hit by a Syrian missile, killing 15 troops in the northwestern Latakia province.

Moscow said Israel was culpable, as the Il-20 had caught in the crossfire as four Israeli F-16 jets attacked targets in northwestern Syria.

The Israeli military said Syria's indiscriminate air defense fire was the cause of the incident.

The United States has called the Russian move to arm Syrian military "a serious escalation".

Israel has, in the past six years, carried out hundreds of attacks inside Syria, varying from firing rockets to air raids, which have increased in intensity and frequency since 2012, when Iranian paramilitary fighters joined the conflict.

Israel has carried out about 200 air raids in the last two years, according to its officials.

Since it joined the Syrian conflict, Russia has generally turned a blind eye to Israeli attacks inside the country.

Israel and Russia have also maintained a hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria.

Moscow has tried to maintain good relations with Iran, which is allied with the Syrian government, as well as Israel.

 A top Israeli official has said that Iran’s military presence in Syria would still be vulnerable even after Russia provides Assad with its more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

“We have made it clear to the Russians at the highest levels in recent days that we have no interest in confronting Russia or Syria,” Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi was quoted as saying by the Israeli Broadcast Authority.

“The more the Syrians understand that our efforts are not directed against them, the better for all concerned,” he said.

“We have a red line,” he added. “Every Iranian military deployment in Syria represents a threat to our national security.”

“We will use all means at our disposal to prevent the expansion [of the Iranian military presence in Syria],” Hanegbi said. “And I believe the Russians understand how important this policy is for us.”

The minister went on to assert that delivery of the S-300 to Syria would not adversely affect the Israeli air force’s capabilities. (Zaman Al Wasl, Agencies)

Zaman Al Wasl
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