Israeli fighter jets are in the air over Lebanon Wednesday, making quick incursions into Syrian air space, apparently testing to see if the newly delivered S-300 air defense system given to Syria by Russia, has weaknesses.
On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that Moscow had delivered 49 units of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria in order to enhance the security of Russian servicemen in the country.
Speaking on Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Tel Aviv wasn't "happy" about the S-300 deliveries to Syria, but it could not give up on its military operations in the war-ravaged country.
The minister further stated that it was important for Russia and Israel to restore normal ties despite their disagreements over the downing of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane.
“I think the most important thing for us today is…to return the working relationship to normal. It is today the most important task — to return to normal operation, coordination, to more actively use the 'hot line' to prevent conflict situations. We need to work,” said Lieberman.
Lieberman once again reiterated that Israel blamed Syria for the Il-20 crash, thus dismissing Moscow's version that Israeli F-16 jets had used the Russian aircraft as a shield against Syrian air defenses.
“I repeat, the entire responsibility lies with Assad's army… Over the past two years Israel has conducted more than 200 strikes against Iranian facilities and Hezbollah targets in Syria. Two hundred times, and not a single Russian soldier received a single scratch. Suddenly, here we allegedly arranged such a 'setup'. It is illogical. In addition, you need to understand that the speed of the F-16 is two and a half times the speed of the Il-20… and at the time when the Syrian air defenses opened fire, Israeli planes were already in our airspace," the minister said.
He elaborated that the Russian side did not accept the "facts that we have provided them with," and was insisting on Moscow's version of events..
“We are engaged in a very civilized, adequate dialogue, despite the seriousness of the situation, despite the tragic incident. I want to emphasize that in the statement of the President of Russia, this was precisely the way it was defined — a chain of tragic events, therefore, it is necessary to treat and understand it this way, that for both Israel and Russia it is much more advisable… to have a positive dialogue, work together, rather than engage in public showdowns,” the minister added.
Earlier this week, Russian Defense Ministet Sergei Shoigu said that Russia had finalized the delivery of 49 units of S-300s to Syria.
On September 24, Shoigu announced that Moscow would take certain measures to boost the security of its troops in Syria, including deliveries of the advanced S-300 systems in the aftermath of the crash of Russia's Il-20 military aircraft.
The Russian military has blamed the downing on the Israeli Air Force, stressing that an Israeli fighter jet had used the Il-20 as a shield against Syrian air defenses.
The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that they hope the Russian Federation did not deliver the S-300 systems to Syria because if they did, it would be a “serious escalation.”
“I cannot confirm that that is accurate. I hope that they did not, that would be a serious escalation and concern,” Heather Nauert said when asked about the administration’s reaction to reports Russia had sent S-300 systems to Syria.
Israel will use their F-35L stealth fighter jets in Syria, Galei Tzahel (Israeli Army radio) reported on Wednesday.
According to the Galei Tzahel report, the decision to use the F-35 comes in response to the Russian Federation’s decision to supply Syria with the S-300 air defense system.
“Galei Tzahal quoted a source in the Israeli Air Force who said that in light of the situation in Syria, Israel has decided to increase the use of F-35 stealth fighter in its attacks on Syria,” Arutz Sheva reported.
“The coming attacks won’t be the first, but they will be safer for the pilots in light of the new reality in Syria’s skies,” the source told Galei Tzahal, as quoted by Arutz Sheva.
“This is the most expensive weapon in the world, and it’s the most advanced airplane in the world. Israel paid 125 million for each plane, and the Defense Ministry purchased 50 of the Model A planes… Our planes are called the F-35I. Eight of the planes have already landed in Israel and 33 are expected to arrive by 2021,” they added.
As of abut 6:30 AM EDT Wednesday, Israeli air force planes were highly active in the air space over eastern Lebanon. It appears to some that the Israelis are probing for gaps, holes, or other weaknesses in the new Syrian air defenses, to see if additional strikes can be made inside Syria.
If the Israelis utilize the F-35, their planes **MAY** not be detectable by the F-35 but any cruise missiles or other projectiles launched by those planes WILL be detectable. The S-300 is likely to be capable of intercepting any such air launched weapons.