Israel, Syria and Russia scaled up their contest over Syria. On Sunday, Jan. 20. Israel made a point of striking Damascus airport in the face of a Russian warning, while Syria launched a missile against Israeli Golan and Moscow issued bulletins on the state of play.
This was Israel’s first air strike against a Syrian target since Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi’s took charge of the IDF last week as new Chief of Staff. It was also rare in that Israeli warplanes operated in daylight. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, four Israel Air Force F-16 fighters flew in from the Mediterranean to attack Damascus international airport. Syrian air defense weapons, which the Russian DoD confirmed this time, were Pantsirs and Buks, were launched against the Israeli jets and the missiles they dropped, claiming to have intercepted 7 missiles. These bulletins flowed throughout the incident from Russian spokesman to local correspondents.
Only last week, an Arab publication warned Israel that no more air strikes must take place against Damascus international airport which was being made ready for commercial traffic.
Just one hour after the Israeli air strike, two Syrian missiles were launched against the northern Golan and Mt. Hermon. The IDF spokesman reported they were intercepted by an Israeli Iron Dome air defense battery. Several thousand skiers on the Mt. Hermon ski slopes just north of the Golan saw the flying projectiles. To avoid panic, the spokesman said there was no need for them to leave the slopes.
However, DEBKAfile’s military sources report that, on Dec. 26, both Russia and Syria warned that for further Israeli air strikes, they would shoot anti-air missiles into Israeli air space. This was taken as a threat to fire SA-5 anti-air missiles from the Damascus region. The threat came the day after one of those missiles caused major alarm in the cities of central Israel.