Russia will transfer two to four S-300 air defense missile systems to Syria within the next two weeks, the Russian news website Kommersant reported Tuesday, citing a source familiar with the details. The amount of systems may increase in the future.
The Assad regime will use the systems to defend Syria's coastline and its borders with Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, the report said. According to the official, Russia may end up transferring up to eight systems to Syria, depending on the circumstances.
Meanwhile, Russian outlet Izvestia reported that Moscow is boosting its electronic warfare systems in Syria, which were brought to the country on Monday on board an Illusion-76 cargo plane to Khmeimim air base in Latakia, and will be used by Russian forces stationed there. Russian President Vladimir Putin notified Syrian President Bashar Assad about the shipment in a phone call Monday, the report added.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Monday that his country would supply Syria with S-300 ground-to-air missiles, a week after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria.
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Russia, he said, would also use electronic warfare systems to prevent the activation of satellite tracking systems along Syria’s coast, making it harder for Israel to conduct airstrikes. And Russia will equip Syrian anti-aircraft units with Russian tracking and guidance systems to prevent mishaps in which Syria downs Russian aircraft.
Israel's security cabinet convened Tuesday morning to discuss the diplomatic crisis with Russia ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's departure to attend the UN General Assembly session in New York, where he is expected to bring up the row with Russia with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu discussed the deployment of the S-300s with Putin on Monday. The Prime Minister's Office said Netanyahu told the Russian president that putting advanced weapons systems in irresponsible hands would increase dangers in the region. Netanyahu added that Israel will continue to protect its security and interests.
Netanyahu also reiterated Israel's position that Syria was responsible for the downing of the plane last week, which killed 15 Russian airmen. The prime minister added that Iran also bore responsibility as it was destabilizing the area.
Russia, however, "proceeds from the premise that the actions of the Israeli Air Force were the main cause of the tragedy," the Kremlin said in a statement after Putin's phone call with Netanyahu.
Putin told Netanyahu that supplying the surface-to-air missile system to the Assad regime is "intended to thwart any potential threat to the lives of the Russian military service members fulfilling the tasks of combatting international terrorism," the Kremlin said.