Russia's planned transfer of the S-300 advanced antiaircraft defense system to Syria will make Israel think twice before it attacks in Syria again, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Tuesday, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. He added that Syria would use the missile system only in the event of an attack on its territory.
"Israel, which has gotten used to carrying out attacks under various pretexts, will now have to weigh and rethink before attacking again," Mekdad told the news agency. "The aggression against Syria is directed towards the forces that are fighting against terrorism in Syria. If Israel will try to attack we will defend our people as we did in the past."
On Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that his country would transfer S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to the Assad regime within two weeks. The Russian minister attributed the responsibility for the downing of the Russian plane and killing 15 of its crew members to the Israel.
He said, however, that the decision to transfer the weapons system had nothing to do with the tensions with Israel and that the aim of the move was to protect the Russian army in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin added that he had discussed the decision with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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Sources in the Israeli defense establishment said that there are those who believe that Assad doesn't even need the weapons system, but is celebrating the fact that he achieved it from the Russians. According to estimates, the high costs of training local manpower to operate the system and its ongoing maintenance make it undesirable to Assad. In addition, if it is damaged or destroyed, the Syrian regime will find it difficult to meet the costs, which it will have to carry, not Russia.