Syria Air Defenses Target Suspected Drones Over Russia Base

There were no more details about the suspected attack or who was behind it, but it comes amid rising violations of a cease-fire in Syria’s west negotiated by Turkey and Russia and in place since September

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, on Nov. 20, 2017
Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Syria state media said Sunday the country’s air defense systems intercepted and destroyed three “hostile” targets over a Russian air base in the country’s coastal region.

There were no more details about the suspected attack or who was behind it, but it comes amid rising violations of a cease-fire in Syria’s west negotiated by Turkey and Russia and in place since September.

On Sunday, Russia Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said on state television that the agreement with Turkey is not fully implemented, leaving the situation there as a matter of concern “first of all, by the Syrian authorities and also Moscow.” He didn’t address the suspected drone attack.

The Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said explosions heard in the region were from air defense systems intercepting suspected attacking drones. The Observatory said such drones had previously targeted the Russian air base in Latakia province — the last such attack coming in November, despite the cease-fire deal.

The de-escalation deal in Idlib province averted a Syrian government offensive on the armed opposition enclave, which is also home to nearly 3 million people. The agreement created a security zone free of heavy weapons and monitored by Turkish troops to halt fighting.

But infighting between the armed groups in Idlib escalated into a major showdown. Earlier this month, members of the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, took over control of Idlib and the surrounding countryside and forced rival Turkey-backed insurgents to accept an HTS-controlled administration.

Last week, Russia complained that al-Qaida-linked group’s hold increasingly threatened its air base and urged Turkey to do more to rein in the militants in the enclave.

The Syrian government has repeatedly threatened to launch an offensive to recapture Idlib province, while Turkey had complained that Damascus was trying to undermine the deal.