The Russian Defense Ministry suddenly announced Thursday morning, Sept. 20, the closure of the eastern Mediterranean to air traffic and shipping – from the Syrian and Lebanese coasts to Cyprus -due to a snap “military exercise.”
DEBKAfile: By this device, Russia has shut down Israel’s capacity to strike targets in Syria from the sea or from Lebanon. Air raids henceforth can only be launched directly from Israel or through Jordanian air space. Israel’s missile ships are also prevented from reaching waters off the Syrian coast.
This stratagem is not only aimed against Israel, in the wake of the Russian Il-20 reconnaissance air crash Monday with 15 people aboard, but the United States as well. Heading towards the Mediterranean is the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier strike group to join the US Sixth fleet. The group carries 6,000 sea and air crew personnel, with 9 squadrons of fighter-bombers on its decks, and consists additionally of guided missile cruisers and destroyers. It is the Trump administration’s first major response to the massing by the Russians of an armada of 25 warships off the Syrian coast since the last week of August.
The Russian naval buildup and the forthcoming arrival of the US aircraft carrier, following the downing of the Russian plane, is scaling military tensions around Syria up to a new pitch between the US, Russia and Israel. Further developments are seen to be impending.