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Report: Russia, exasperated, moving to curtail Israeli strikes in Syria

Russia has “run out of patience” with Israel in Syria and is planning a shift in its policies toward Israeli sorties over the country, according to an unconfirmed report on Saturday.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat cited an unnamed “well-informed” Russian source as saying that following talks with Washington, Moscow had got the impression that “Washington does not welcome the continuous Israeli raids,” and thus believes it has the freedom to act more aggressively to thwart them.

In light of this, the Russians were now supplying Syrian forces with more advanced anti-missile systems and know-how, making them more capable of shooting down Israeli armaments, the report said.

It claimed the effect of this was already being seen, with Syrian air defenses shooting down seven of eight Israeli missiles during a July 19 Israeli raid.

There was no outside confirmation of the Arab newspaper’s report.

Syrian media reported two Israeli attacks this week, on Monday night and early Thursday. It claimed that in both cases most missiles were shot down — though Syria has regularly made such claims in the past, in what Syrian war analysts have generally believed to be empty boasts.

Israel’s military does not comment on reports of specific strikes in Syria save for those that are in retaliation for attacks from the country.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. Jerusalem fears Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah.

Russia has repeatedly criticized Israeli strikes over the years.

In January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Jerusalem should provide Moscow with intelligence about suspected threats so that it can “neutralize” them, rather than attack them itself.

“If Israel is really forced to respond to threats to the Israeli security coming from the Syrian territory, we have told our Israeli colleagues many times: if you see such threats, please give us the information,” Lavrov said at the time.

Russia has deployed a large military presence in Syria to support Bashar Assad through his country’s brutal civil war. In order to prevent unwanted clashes, Jerusalem and Moscow have maintained a so-called deconfliction mechanism, which has allowed the two countries to effectively communicate with one another and avoid altercations.

This mechanism has been generally successful, with the notable exception of an incident in September 2018, in which a Russian spy plane was shot down by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that had been fired in response to an Israeli attack.

Moscow blamed Israel for the deaths of the troops on board the aircraft, saying Israeli planes had hidden behind the Russian aircraft, a charge that the Israel Defense Forces fiercely denied.

Source: Judah Ari Gross – TOI