Syria’s surface-to-air SA-5 missile attack on Israeli reconnaissance flights over Lebanon on Monday, Oct. 16, was a demonstration that Damascus, like Tehran, is not totally dependent on Moscow.
It was the first time that Syrian SA-5 missiles had been launched against Israeli flights over Lebanon, although Damascus is sure that it would not curtail the air force’s freedom of action in the skies of Lebanon and Syria
It was staged as Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest associates, was on his way to a visit in Israel. This visit had long been planned, but it gained considerable weight by its occurrence three days after President Donald Trump unveiled his new strategy for Iran, and on the day that armed hostilities over Kirkuk erupted in northern Iraq, when the Iraqi army and Shiite militias under Iranian Revolutionary Guards command attacked the Kurdish Peshmerga.
The timing also added extra significance to the Syrian missile fire on Israeli planes, especially after the recent merger of Syrian and Russian air commands at the Russian Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia.
Gen. Shoigu was therefore briefed on the incident in real time without waiting for an Israeli update.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources have strong grounds to assume that Damascus and Tehran were closely coordinated in their actions in the last 24 hours. The Assad regime was sending a message that, notwithstanding massive Russian military assistance, Syria was not totally dependent on Moscow and would not hesitate to act alone if it so decided.
Our sources added that Syrian ground-to-air missiles were last fired against Israel flights on March 17, when they were heading back home from a bombing mission. The Syrian battery waited for a nod from Russia’s Syrian command before the launch, but, by then, the Israel jets were over Israel’s Sea of Galilee. This time, Damascus did not delay and fired the SA-5 missile without asking for permission.
IDF sources report that the four Israel missiles fired in its retaliatory air strike Monday destroyed the Syrian battery.