IAF air strikes against targets in Syria on Tuesday put two civilian airlines in “immediate danger,” said Russia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday.According to ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, Israeli F-16s carried out air strikes on Syrian targets as two civilian flights were landing in Beirut and Damascus, putting the passengers at risk.“Provocative acts by the Israeli air force endangered two passenger jets, when six of their F-16s carried out air strikes on Syria from Lebanese airspace,” he was quoted by RT news as saying.According to the report, the Syrian military didn’t deploy surface-to-air missiles and electronic jamming “to prevent a tragedy” and to let Damascus air traffic control divert one of the passenger jets to the Khmeimim air base near Latakia.Unconfirmed reports indicated that one of the flights that were diverted was a Cham Wings flight from Najaf, Iraq, to Latakia.The ministry added that Assad regime air defenses destroyed 14 of the 16 missiles fired by the IAF during the strikes.According to a report by Newsweek quoting a source in the US Defense Department, senior Hezbollah leaders were targeted in the air strikes.The report quoted the source as having obtained the information from a senior Israeli military officer “with direct knowledge of the attack,” which “was conducted minutes after the leaders boarded a plane bound for Iran.” Other locations reported by Syrian media to have been struck during the strike include pro-Iranian military positions located in the suburbs of Damascus, air defense facilities and headquarters of the 68th Brigade and the 137th Brigade of the Syrian army in the Damascus area, a military headquarters belonging to the 4th Division of the Syrian army in the Al-Muna area surrounding Damascus, and military Unit 10 in the district of Qatana.
The strikes, which began at 10 p.m., struck several locations and were reported by Newsweek to have targeted – in addition to the plane – weapons warehouses as well as several Iranian ammunition supply points which contained advanced GPS-guided ammunition for Hezbollah.Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state.Syrian state media said the strikes were carried out from Lebanese airspace and that a number of “hostile targets” were intercepted by its S-200 air defense system. Israel’s air defense system was also activated, with a smoke trail seen from Hadera south of Haifa. There were no reports of injuries or damage to Israel.Earlier on Tuesday, an Iranian cargo jet belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm landed in Damascus International Airport. The Boeing 747, affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), took off from Tehran at 5:30 p.m. and landed shortly after 7:45 p.m. The airline has been repeatedly accused of smuggling Iranian weaponry to Hezbollah, and was suspected to have transported military equipment from Tehran to the Syrian army and Hezbollah.With the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces, Israel’s northern front has become the IDF’s No. 1 priority. Working to prevent the entrenchment of Iranian forces and the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, the Israel Air Force has admitted to carrying out hundreds of air strikes in Syria this year.The alleged attack came a week after the White House announced that American troops would withdraw from Syria. Following the announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would expand military operations against Iran following the withdrawal. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot stressed that while it was a “significant” event, it would not affect the IDF’s ability to act against Iran and Hezbollah.While the number of air strikes in Syria attributed to Israel have dropped since the downing of a Russian military plane in September by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli strike, Israel has stressed that it will continue to operate against Iranian targets in the war-torn country.Following the downing of the plane, Moscow provided the S-300 advanced antiaircraft missile batteries as well as the launcher, radar and command and control vehicle to the Syrian regime in early October.The system, deployed to Masyaf in northwestern Syria, is not believed to be operational yet.