DEBKAfile Special Report
Israel’s air strikes near Damascus international air port and the Syrian-Lebanese border Sunday, Dec. 7, are depicted by Middle East military and intelligence sources as Israel’s first overt military clash with Russia in the course of the more than three-year Syrian war. Those sources assert that the strikes demolished components of Russian SA-25 or other types of top-line anti air missile systems that Moscow had destined for Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist group.
Russian transport planes are said to have shipped these consignments in the last few days to the military section of Damascus international airport. It was pointed out that the Israeli air strikes occurred less than 24 hours after Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin’s point man for the Syrian war, met with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah Saturday in Beirut. The Russians for the first time insisted on widely circulating photos of the two officials shaking hands.
Israeli military and intelligence sources have not confirmed this account. However, DEBKAfile’s sources have learned that Moscow has been looking for a reckoning with the US and Israel over the fall in the last week of October of the large Russian intelligence post at Tel a-Hara in southern Syria to Syrian rebel units.. One of the most highly sophisticated Russian intelligence bases outside its borders, the secret site was located strategically close to the junction of Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel.
The prized hi-tech apparatus, much of it unfamiliar to Western spy agencies, was quickly shipped out of Syria for examination in the West.
Other Israeli air force targets struck near Damascus airport in Sunday’s raid were the 103rd brigade of the 4th Division, which is the Syrian president’s republican guard, and the same division’s logistic rear base at Dimas near the Lebanese border.
The fact that Israel conducted air strikes against two facilities of the same Syrian army division along the route to Lebanon indicates that the targeted weapons were on their way from Syria to Hizballah strongholds in Lebanon.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Sunday:
Syrian TV and Hizballah sources accused Israel Sunday evening, Dec. 7 of carrying out air strikes against two government-held areas – near the Syrian capital’s international airport and Dimas, a town near the Lebanese border. Hizballah sources also reported that Israel jets attacked military targets close to the Lebanese border and the old Damascus-Beirut highway. Both claimed that there were no casualties. Israel military sources declined to comment on these reports.
One target is said to have been a warehouse at Damascus airport which Israel has bombed in the past to demolish advanced weapons consignments bound for the Lebanese Hizballah. The site at Dimas was a military position. Whether it was manned by Syrian or Hizballah troops is unknown.
Syrian and Lebanese sources claim Israeli planes launched at least 10 strikes.
The last Israeli air raid took place in March against military positions in the Quneitra region on the Syrian side of the Golan.