Russia Asks Israeli Ambassador to Explain Damascus Airport Strike

After strike attributed to Israel that caused massive damage to the Syrian capital's airport, Russia's deputy foreign minister says ambassador's explanations 'seem unconvincing'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Damage at the Damascus International Airport following a strike attributed to Israel, on Sunday.
Damage at the Damascus International Airport following a strike attributed to Israel, on Sunday.Credit: - - AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Russia has summoned Israel's ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi on Wednesday, expressing "grave concern" over the airstrike on a Syrian airport last week attributed to Israel.

Mikhail Bogdanov, the deputy foreign minister of Russia and the special envoy to the Middle East, wrote in a statement that the reasons he received for the attack on Damascus International Airport "seem unconvincing," and that they are awaiting additional explanations, particularly regarding the Russian-Israeli joint mechanism to prevent serious incidents.

At the same time, Bogdanov said that Russia sees the transformation of Syrian territory into a scene of armed confrontation between third countries as unacceptable, and stands firmly for Syrian territorial integrity and sovereignty, "in accordance with the fundamental norms of international law and United Nations statutes."

Russian forces have been present in Syria since 2015, when they helped turn the tide in a civil war in favor of President Bashar Assad. In January, witnesses and rebel sources said Russian jets have bombed areas near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, the last opposition-held bastion.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Friday's airstrike left the Damascus airport out of commission, and Syrian government engineers have been working to repair the massive damages, including those to its runways, control tower and three hangars.

The human rights group said that Israel struck hangars used to store Iranian weapons and that auditoriums damaged in the attacks were used to welcome senior figures, such as those from Iran and Hezbollah, making clandestine visits to Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory's tally, it was the 15th Israeli strike in Syria this year.

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed security coordination in Syria in their October meeting in Sochi. An Israeli minister who attended the meeting hinted that Russia had agreed to let Israel operate freely against targets in Syria.

During their five-hour discussion, Putin demanded that Israel sharpen its coordination with Russia of strikes in Syria, and that Israel be "more precise," but there seemed to be little difference between Russian and Israeli positions on Syria.

In February, shortly before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman expressed concern over Israel's "crude violation of Syria's sovereignty" in the form of continuing airstrikes. Maria Zakharova
was quoted by the Russian News Agency TASS as saying that the strikes "may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions," and that they endanger international passenger flights.

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