Russia Gave Israel Advance Notice of Its Airstrikes in Syria

Senior officials say Moscow contacted National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen an hour before the Russian attack.

AP

UNITED NATIONS – Russia informed Israel in advance about its intention to carry out an aerial attack in Syria, senior Israeli officials told Haaretz on Wednesday.

The sources said Russian government officials made contact with Yossi Cohen, the national security adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, as well as with senior figures in the Israeli defense establishment about an hour before the Russian attack, saying that Russian planes would shortly thereafter be bombing targets in Syria.

The Russians' advance notice was apparently designed to avoid any confrontation between Israeli and Russian planes in the course of the operation.

The information was provided to Israel in accordance with understandings that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached when they met in Moscow a week ago. The two leaders agreed to establish a mechanism for coordination between the Israel Defense Forces and the Russian army to head off any unintentional encounters in Syrian airspace. In a briefing with reporters in New York after his meeting on Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama, Putin acknowledged that Israel has security interests in Syria, and that he respects this.

Russia said it launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria on Wednesday after Putin secured his parliament's unanimous backing to intervene to prop up the Kremlin's closest Middle East ally.

In addition to the contact with Israel, Moscow gave Washington an hour's notice of the strikes, which set in motion Russia's biggest play in the region since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a U.S. official said. Targets in the Homs area appeared to have been struck, but not areas held by Islamic State, the U.S. official said. The Russian Defense Ministry said, however, that its attacks were directed at Islamic State military targets.

Reuters contributed to this report.