'Putin Made a Move, but It's a Big Playing Field': Israeli Official Addresses 'Challenge' of S-300 in Syria

Official says Israel will deal with arrival of aerial defense system in Syria 'in different ways, not necessarily by preventing the delivery'

FILE PHOTO: Belarus' OSA-AKM surface-to-air missile launchers and S-300 anti-aircraft systems move to firing positions during a military drill, Volka, Belarus, September 19, 2017.
AFP

The S-300 anti-aircraft missiles that Russia is transferring to Syria are "a complicated challenge" for Israel, an Israeli official said Friday. The official added: "We're dealing with it in different ways, not necessarily by preventing the delivery."

According to the official, Russian President Vladimir Putin updated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the fact that he intends to send the missiles to Syria within two weeks, and then acted accordingly.

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Israel has meanwhile clarified to Putin that it will continue to act within Syrian territory and U.S. President Donald Trump has stated that his country fully supports Israel's actions as well as its right to defend itself.

"Putin made a move, but it's a big playing field and he understands that," the official said.

Russia announced on Friday that it has begun transferring to Syria the advanced aerial defense systems following the downing of the Russian aircraft that led to the death of 15 Russian crew members after an Israeli air strike in Syria.

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An Israeli army investigation pinned the responsibility for the downing of the Russian plane on the Syrian aerial defense systems, but Russia's defense ministry has rejected the conclusions of the Israeli probe and accused Israel of misleading Moscow.

Since the incident Israeli officials, with Netanyahu in the lead, have clarified on several occasions that Israel will continue to act in Syria in order to prevent an Iranian entrenchment there or the transfer of ammunition to Hezbollah.

Netanyahu spoke with Putin this week, with his office saying he had told the Russian president that putting advanced weapons systems in irresponsible hands would increase dangers in the region. 

Speaking with CNN on Friday, Netanyahu said that he'd made clear to Putin that "the first thing was let's continue this deconfliction, but at the same time, I told him very respectfully and very clearly that Israel will do, will continue to do what it has to do to defend itself."