In a meeting with European Union ambassadors, Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror declared the Syrian government’s imminent acquisition of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to be a “red line” that would obligate Israeli military action to prevent them becoming operational.
The S-300’s are the pride of Russia’s air defense arsenal, and Syria is eager to acquire them after several recent Israeli air strikes, which their existing defensive systems proved unable to prevent. Russia insisted that since the system is purely defensive, and the rebels don’t have any aircraft, the missiles are unrelated to the ongoing Syrian Civil War and they see no reason to delay delivery.
The comments come just a day after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon suggested in an interview that Israel might attack the Russian Navy in an attempt to sink the ships and prevent the delivery. That is seen as extremely unlikely given Russia’s military capabilities.
The issue is two-fold for Israel, with the public claim being that the S-300’s range would, assuming the missiles were parked along the border, allow Syria to attack planes in Israeli air space and turn Israel into a “no-fly zone.” Privately, the indications are that the real opposition stems from the S-300 making future Israeli attacks much less convenient.
The prospect of Israel attacking Syria seems entirely possible, since the Israeli government does this seemingly randomly once in awhile anyhow. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem insists that Syria will immediately retaliate if Israel attacks yet again, though Israeli officials have repeatedly said they don’t expect Syria to do so, and actually warned Syria not to even attempt to defend itself if and when Israel launches more attacks on them.