Three announcements made on 20, 22, and 25 July by the Russian Ministry of Defense about the successful interception of Israeli missiles in Syrian airspace have prompted a heated debate among Middle Eastern and Western observers.
On 29 July, The Times of Israel commented on the downing of Israeli missiles in Syria, suggesting that Russia might be testing Naftali Bennett’s new Israeli government which came to power on 13 June, 2021 and adding that there’s no reason for panic.
The Syrian air defenses armed with Russian-made Pantsir (NATO name: SA-22 Greyhound) and Buk-M2E (NATO name: SA-17 Grizzly) systems managed to stop all recent incoming Israeli missile attacks empowered by IDF war-jets.
However, Israel Hayom warned that Moscow may very soon clip Israel’s wings in the Arab Republic. The media outlet pinned the blame for the supposed shift on the new Bennett government, arguing that it is seen as weak and inexperienced.
For its part, Forbes presumed that the Russian MoD’s recent announcements could serve as a signal not only to the Bennett government but also to the Biden administration, in order to negotiate “new and clearer parameters for de-confliction” in Syria.
The first news agency to raise the alarm over Russia’s alleged “change of heart” was Saudi Arabia’s international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, based in London.
In particular, Al-Awsat suggested that Russia had “enhanced” Syrian air defenses and provided new equipment to the Syrian government forces.
The apparent shift came after a de-confliction mechanism between Russia and Israel, established by Prime Minister Netanyahu, effectively ceased once Bennett assumed power in June 2021.
Previously the Russian military was usually given some brief advance notice of Israeli attacks to make sure Russian troops were not in harm’s way, although there were regular Russian Ministry of Defense complaints about the short time window provided, often only a few minutes.
Russia could have increased air defense support for Syria against Israeli airstrikes in order to pressure the new Israeli government to restore this broken de-confliction mechanism and or establish new more restrictive ‘rules of the game’ with the new Israeli government over Israeli attacks in Syria.
Moscow has long criticized the Jewish state for air raids and strikes in Syrian territory. On 8 July 2021, Russia, Iran, and Turkey called upon Israel to suspend the attacks on the Arab Republic.
For its part, Israel argues that it targets the positions of Hezbollah, designated as the terrorist organization by the Jewish state, and alleged Iranian installations.
The Russian military goes to extreme lengths to de-conflict military operations with the US and avoid any military confrontation that could result in direct conflict between the nuclear armed powers.
Unless US military forces directly attack a Russian military base in Syria, it is difficult to foresee any situation where [the] Russian military would target American military missiles or aircraft.
The Russian MoD never commented on the Syrian Arab Army’s statements with regard to repelling Israeli attacks.
Under Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Russian military forces maintained a strict hands-off policy towards Israeli actions in Syria and refrained from action in hope of avoiding a larger military conflagration.
Yet, on 20 July, a Russian military official, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, the head of the Russian Military Reconciliation Center in Syria, announced that on 19 July, four Israeli F-16 fighter jets fired eight guided missiles at targets in Syria’s Aleppo Province.
Seven of them were destroyed by the Syrian air defenses armed with Russian-made Pantsir (NATO name: SA-22 Greyhound) and Buk-M2E (NATO name: SA-17 Grizzly) systems.
On 22 July, two Israeli F-16’s fired four guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at targets in Syria’s Homs province, all of which, according to Kulit, were intercepted by the Buk-M2E.
On 25 July, two IAF F-16 jets fired two air-guided missiles at facilities in the settlement of Seidat-Zeinab, the Damascus governorate. Again, both rockets were shot down by the Buk-M2E.
The Buk-M2E, a medium-range advanced defense missile complex (ADMC) designed and manufactured by Almaz-Antey, appears to have been used for the first time against the Israeli rockets.
The successful interception of Israeli missiles by modern Russian-made weapons was repeated three times within a week.
If Russia continues to actively exert air defense in Syria against Israeli attacks, this will force Israel to exclusively use ever more stand-off weapons, such as longer range munitions, drones and cruise missiles, for its attacks.
These will be fired at a greater distance out of Lebanese or Jordanian airspace, out of US occupied Syrian airspace in the east or in the south over al-Tanf base, or out of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Such attacks will also face much higher rates of interception and thus become much more expensive for the Israeli government and increasing risk of [further] tensions with Moscow.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2021.