Israeli strike in Syria jeopardized civilian jet: Russia

Russia said 4 Israeli F-16 fighter jets used a passenger plane preparing landing in Damascus as cover while they hit the suburbs of city. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Israeli strike in Syria jeopardized civilian jet: Russia

  • Russia said 4 Israeli F-16 fighter jets used a passenger plane preparing landing in Damascus as cover while they hit the suburbs of city
  • Israel has repeatedly struck Syrian and Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years

MOSCOW: Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday that a passenger jetliner in Syria was endangered by Israeli fighter jets that used it as shield while striking the suburbs of Damascus the previous day.
The allegation comes as tensions run high in Syria, where fighting has escalated in the northern province of Idlib. Syrian government forces, backed by the Russian military, have clashed with Turkish troops that support the opposition there after failing to observe a cease-fire.
A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister did not respond to a request for comment. Israel rarely acknowledges strikes carried out in Syria. Israel has repeatedly struck Syrian and Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years and has vowed to push back against increasing Iranian influence in its neighboring country.
The news of the alleged near-miss came amid jitters just a month after a Ukrainian passenger plane crashed shortly after take-off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Iran said the plane was mistakenly shot down by its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
In a statement released Friday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the strike was carried around 2 a.m. local time Thursday. He said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets used a passenger plane preparing to land in Damascus as cover while they hit the suburbs of Damascus with eight missiles.
Konashenkov didn’t name the airline or flight number, saying only that it was an Airbus-320 en route from Tehran with 172 people on board that “came near to entering the zone of a deadly anti-aircraft missile and artillery fire.”
He said that thanks to quick action by Syrian flight controllers, the plane was diverted to Russia’s Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia about 215 kilometers north of Damascus, where it landed safely.
“Using civilian planes carrying passengers as a cover to block retaliation from the Syrian air defense has become a signature tactic of the Israeli air force,” Konashenkov said.
The Associated Press wasn’t able to independently verify the Russian claims.
FlightRadar24, a website that provides tracking of air traffic, showed Syrian airline Cham Wings Flight 514 — an Airbus320-211 — taking off from Najaf at 1:07 a.m. local time Thursday morning. It can be seen approaching Damascus about an hour later before turning back and diverting its course to the north. It appears to have landed in or near Hmeimeem a half hour later. Flightradar24 listed the arrival time and destination as unknown.
The airline offered no immediate comment. The US Treasury placed Cham Wings on its sanctions list in 2016 for allegedly transporting militants to Syria to fight on behalf of the Syrian government and for moving weapons and equipment to aid it in the nine-year conflict.
In the statement, the Russian military accused Israel of endangering the “lives of hundreds of innocent civilians.”
“Scheduled airline traffic in the Syrian air space, as well as everywhere in the world, takes place on well-known altitude flight levels and is clearly detected by Israel’s radar equipment,” Konashenkov said.
This is not the first time Russia has blamed Israel for “irresponsible actions” in Syria. In September 2018, the Defense Ministry said Israeli forces failed to give Moscow enough warning about a strike and put a Russian military Il-20 plane in the line of fire of Syrian anti-missile systems. The plane was shot down and 15 people on board were killed.


Iran scientist linked to military nuclear program killed

Updated 41 sec ago

Iran scientist linked to military nuclear program killed

  • Fakhrizadeh led Iran's so-called “Amad,” or “Hope” program
  • Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran

DUBAI: Iranian state television is reporting that a scientist that Israel has alleged led a military nuclear program in early 2000s has been "assassinated."
State TV Friday cited sources confirming the death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
It said it would offer more information shortly.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran's so-called “Amad,” or “Hope” program. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “Amad” program ended in the early 2000s. Its inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites.