Israeli overflights of Lebanese airspace are so common as to often go unreported, with the warplanes often looming overhead and straying into neighboring Syria, occasionally taking a shot at some military target on some pretext.
But a report out of Lebanon suggests that a recent overflight was foiled when the Israeli planes got too close to the Russian-controlled area around Akkar, and Russia scrambled a fighter of its own to chase the Israelis off.
Officials familiar with the situation say Russia warned the planes to stay out of “Russian-controlled airspace” and that the Russian plane blocked the path of the Israeli planes until they turned around and returned to Israeli territory. Neither Israel nor Russia directly commented on the incident, with Russia simply reiterating that a “hotline” has been setup between the nations to prevent accidental clashes.
A big part of Israel’s loud objection to Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War was concern that Israel could no longer launch airstrikes against Syrian territory with impunity. The Netanyahu government has insisted they retain the right to act against Syria as they see fit, but Russia is clearly a limiting factor for them.
Akkar spans the northernmost portion of Lebanon’s border with Syria, and crossing into Syria from there would put the warplanes near Tartus, the site of Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean. Clearly, they did not want Israel to be flying sorties over this area.
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