On Tuesday Israel's defense chief issued a surprise admission connected to the war in Syria, specifically related to the literally hundreds of strikes Israel's air force has conducted on targets in Syria over the past few years.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz described an incident in May wherein Israeli military jets operating over Syria were engaged and fired on by a Russian anti-aircraft battery. He said the Russian missiles missed their target, downplaying it as a "one-off incident".
Israel has of late semi-regularly attacked positions in and around Damascus, especially to the south and near the Golan Heights, claiming to be targeting "Iranian assets" and weaponry.
Last month for example, Syria was forced to halt all flights from Damascus international airport, the country's largest, following Israeli airstrikes that destroyed runways and crucial infrastructure, earning severe condemnation from Moscow.
Reuters presents the context behind Defense Minister Gantz's disclosure in the following:
But Israel's Channel 13 TV reported that, on May 13, a Russian-operated S-300 air defense battery fired on Israeli jets as they carried out a Syria sortie - without hitting any.
"It was a one-off incident," Gantz told a conference hosted by Channel 13, when asked to confirm the report. The Russian launch happened when the aircraft "were no longer around", he said.
The Syrian Army regularly seeks to repel Israeli raids via its own Russian-supplied anti-air defense systems, but the unprecedented aspect to the May incident is that it was an S-300 unit operated by the Russian military in Syria that targeted the Israeli aircraft. It may have been the Russians giving Israeli forces a severe and final warning.
Russia has been getting more forceful in its denunciations of these airstrikes, with a similar July 2 daytime attack that reportedly killed two Syrian civilians resulting in Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova saying the following: "We strongly condemn such irresponsible actions that violate the sovereignty of Syria and the basic norms of international law, and we demand their unconditional cessation."
To call these solely "Israeli" strikes on Syria is misleading. They're Israeli-US strikes on Syria. According to WSJ, "Israel secretly coordinates with the U.S. on many of the airstrikes it carries out in Syria."https://t.co/kWGR8uXIWi pic.twitter.com/8aaFaXaLcq— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) July 2, 2022
Gantz, however, in his Tuesday exchange with reporters claimed that military-to-military coordination with Russia over Syria is "a situation that is stable right now, I think." He added: "But we are always reviewing this story as if we only just began it now."