F16 fighter jet
Photo: AFP

Report: Israeli aircraft had Russian missile system in sights

Quoting anonymous Israeli official, Al-Arabiya news channel says Israeli aircraft that entered Syrian airspace on Thursday were sent to destroy Russian-made missile systems recently acquired by Damascus

Israeli aircraft that reportedly flew over Syrian territory two days ago were sent on a mission to destroy Russian-made missile systems recently acquired by Damascus, the Al-Arabiya news channel reported on Saturday.


The satellite channel attributed its report to an Israeli official who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.


A Hizbullah representative in the Lebanese parliament, said the purpose of the Israeli overflights was aimed at exerting military pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear program.


"The aim of the infiltration of Syrian airspace was to identify a aggressive aerial passage to pressure Iran and members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ahead of discussions of Iran's nuclear program in the organization," Lebanese MP Mohammad Ra'ad.


"This in addition to sending aggressive messages to Syria after it was declared that it will not take part in the international peace conference to defend Israel. It is an attempt to alienate Syrian from all the diplomatic channels," he added.


On Thursday, the Syrian government charged that Israeli aircraft dropped "munitions" inside Syria overnight and said its air defenses opened fire.


Syria stopped short of accusing Israel of purposely bombing its territory, and an Israeli spokesman said he could not comment on military operations.


Analysts speculated such a foray could have been probing Syria's defenses or monitoring long-range missile bases. The reported path also would have taken the jets near Iran, whose growing power and anti-Israel government worries leaders of the Jewish state.


The incident came after a summer of building tensions that have fed worries of a military conflict erupting between Syria and Israel. Syria accused Israel last month of seeking a pretext for war, and the Israelis are keeping a close watch on Syrian troop movements.


Both sides have insisted they want no conflict along the disputed frontier. But Syria fears it is being squeezed out of a US-brokered Mideast peace conference planned for November and will be left at a disadvantage in the standoff with Israel.


Peace talks

Syria has grown more vocal in pressing its demand that Israel give back the Golan Heights. Israel, in turn, seeks the return of three Israeli soldiers held for more than a year by two Syrian-allied militant groups, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian lands.


The official Syrian Arab News Agency quoted a military official as saying Israeli jets broke the sound barrier flying over northern Syria before dawn Thursday, then "dropped munitions" onto deserted areas after being shot at by Syria's air defenses.


Syria did not claim the aircraft bombed its territory, however. Asked if Israel attacked Syria, Cabinet Minister Buthaina Shaaban said only that the aircraft violated Syrian air space.


"We are a sovereign country. They cannot do that," Shaaban said on Al-Jazeera television's English service.


Syrian officials did not specify the type or quantity of Israeli aircraft that purportedly crossed the border or describe the "munitions" dropped. Pilots sometimes jettison extra fuel tanks when warplanes come under fire to make the craft lighter and easier to maneuver.


פרסום ראשון: 09.08.07, 11:44
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