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February 7, 2020 2:16 pm

Top Israeli Security Expert Dismisses Russian Claim IAF Put Civilian Plane at Risk in Syria Strike

avatar by Algemeiner Staff and Agencies

Missile fire is seen over Damascus, Syria, May 10, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Omar Sanadiki.

A top Israeli security expert dismissed on Friday Russia’s claim that the IAF had endangered a civilian plane during an air strike conducted in Syria the previous day.

The comments of Amos Yadlin — a former Israeli military intelligence chief who now heads the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think tank — came in response to the Russian Defense Ministry’s assertion that a commercial jet flying from Tehran to Damascus on Thursday had been forced to make an emergency landing at the Hmeimim Air Base near Latakia to avoid being shot down by Syrian air defenses that were seeking to thwart the IAF strike.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov accused Israel of using the aircraft in question — which, according to some reports, was a Chams Wings Airbus A320 — as cover.

“Such operations by Israeli strategists gamble the lives of hundreds of innocent people,” Konashenkov charged.

“The movement of regular passenger flights both in Syrian airspace and around the world is carried out in known, high-altitude echelons, which Israeli radar can clearly see,” he added.

Yadlin was not buying Konashenkov’s story, saying in a Twitter thread, “The civilian airliner which was turned to land in Lattakiyya: neither ‘emergency landing’ nor ‘sharp maneuver’, rather a standard go-around in 6000 ft and diversion to an alternate airfield 300km away.”

“Probably, the Russians were prewarned about the strike over the deconfliction channels,” he added. “But some in Russia frustrated with the Syrian air defense failure to deal with the Israeli airforce, accuse Israel who fights Iran’s continuing entrenchment in Syria.”

“Recall that Syrian air defense downed a Russian plane in Sep 2018 and Iranian air defense downed a Ukranian plane over Tehran last month,” Yadlin — an ex-IAF pilot who participated in the bombing of the Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 — noted. “Advanced and effective Russian air defenses systems are recklessly employed by Syrian and Iranian operators, endangering civil aviation.”

“Contrarily, Israel tries to operate in hours with little civilian traffic,” Yadlin concluded. “The weapons were launched from the west and the Syrian airliner came from the east… and by the way, it is difficult to plan to avoid a civilian flight which has not submitted a flight plan.”

Cham Wings was sanctioned by the US in 2016 for allegedly transporting fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and helping his military move weapons and equipment.

These flights, which almost always land late at night, do not appear in any airport or airline timetables.

Israel has carried out numerous strikes in Syria in recent years on targets linked to Iran — a staunch backer of Assad in the ongoing civil war in the country — and its Shi’a proxy Hezbollah.

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