Syria has already received shipments of advanced surface-to-sea and sea-to-sea missiles from Russia, Western diplomats said on Sunday. The weapons, they said, reached the Syrian Army at some point in the last few weeks despite intense Israeli pressure on Moscow to scuttle the deal.
The diplomats told Haaretz that Damascus continues to proclaim its desire for peace with Israel, but at the same time is deepening its ties with the radical regional axis of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
The Bashar Assad regime recently supplied Hezbollah with sophisticated weapons, like the Iranian-made M-600 missile, and has also begun providing Hamas with cutting-edge anti-tank weaponry that it had previously supplied only to Hezbollah. Syria is also said to be funding Hamas training camps in the Damascus area.
Meanwhile, Syria also seems to be involved in the quiet war unfolding recently between Hamas and Egyptian authorities. On Saturday an Arabic-language website reported that Mohammed Dababish, a top Hamas security official in the Gaza Strip, was arrested at Cairo International Airport while en route to Damascus following a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
Since the rocket fire on Eilat and the Jordanian port of Aqaba last month, the Egyptians have clamped down on Hamas leaders' activity and prevented them from leaving Gaza during the month of Ramadan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud ministers on Sunday that Moscow's arms sale to Syria is "problematic."
"We've known about this deal for a while, and we held meetings with Russians at every level. Unfortunately the sale went through," he said. "We are living with the threat of a new variety of missiles and rockets, and we must have a military response to them." Netanyahu cited the advanced F-35 fighter jet as part of that military response.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also responded on Sunday to news that the Russian arms deal had gone through. "This complicates the situation; it doesn't contribute to stability or efforts to bring about peace," he told Army Radio. "We will make our position known to the Russians. The defense minister raised the issue during his visit to Russia, but unfortunately things didn't work out."
The P-800 is a highly accurate cruise missile capable of traveling 300 kilometers and delivering a 200-kilogram payload. The projectile is designed to travel just meters above the surface of the water, making it extremely difficult to identify by radar or intercept.
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