Uncertainty still hangs over Moscow’s precise intentions regarding its air force flights over the Golan close to Israel’s border – even after two days of discussions on coordination ended in Tel Aviv Thursday, Oct. 8 between the Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Nikolay Bogdanovsky and his Israeli counterpart Maj. Gen. Yair Golan. A coordination mechanism between the two air forces was left as unfinished business for further discussion, debkafile’s military sources report. So it is still not clear to Israel what is supposed to happen if Russian fighters and bombers enter the Syrian-Israeli border district and slip over into Israeli air space.
The bilateral talks left Israel with the impression that this was a distinct possibility.
Israeli and Western aviation and intelligence experts don’t see how Israel can prevent Russia providing air cover for Syrian and Hizballah forces when the war moves close to the Israeli and Jordanian borders of southern Syria.
Last week, Russian SU-30 and Su-24 warplanes twice violated Turkish air space in the southern province of Hatay (called Alexandretta on Syrian maps). Although after the Russian defense ministry apologized for the the first intrusion as accidental and lasting just a few seconds, our military sources are certain that the Russians were in fact deliberately testing Turkish air defenses.
This scenario may well repeat itself over the Golan in the very near future.
Gen. Bogdanovsky made no secret of Moscow’s intention to use its air power against rebel targets in battles taking place near the Israeli border. According to our exclusive military sources, Israel braced for this eventually Wednesday night, Oct. 7. Syrian, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite forces then launched a ground offensive with Russian air cover against Syrian rebel forces in the Hama region. This was their first ground operation since the start of the Russian military buildup in late August. Intelligence was received that a second Syrian-Hizballah offensive, covered by Russian fighters and bombers, was scheduled to start at the same time in the Quneitra area, directly opposite the Israeli Golan.
For some reason, it was not launched when expected, but it is unlikely to be deferred for long. After firing Kalibr-NK-SS-27 Sizzler cruise missiles last week to soften rebel resistance to the Syrian government offensive in the Hama area, the Russians may well aim them at the Quneitra arena too in support of another Syrian operation.