“The Russians immediately sent a clear warning to the Israelis that entering Syrian airspace would be a pretext for opening fire.”
Russian forces sent out a warning to the Israeli Air Force after Israeli jets were detected near Russian controlled airspace near the Syrian–Lebanese border, Lebanese media outlet As Safir reported Friday.
The warning was issued after a Russian radar system spotted Israeli jets approaching Russian-controlled airspace two weeks ago, a Lebanese diplomatic official said, according to the report.
Russia’s defense ministry said Thursday that its forces in Syria had set up a “hotline” with Israel’s military to avoid clashes in the sky over the war-torn country.
An “information-sharing” mechanism “has been established through a hotline between the Russian aviation command center at the Hmeimim air base (in Syria) and a command post of the Israeli air force,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the two sides were undergoing training on how to cooperate.
According to As Safir, the Lebanese source said that Russian aircraft immediately blocked the Israeli jets’ path while they flew above the Akkar region in northern Lebanon. “The Russians immediately sent a clear warning to the Israelis that entering Syrian airspace would be a pretext for opening fire,” the source added.
According to the paper, which is considered loyal to Hezbollah, the Israeli aircraft quickly heeded the warnings and changed their course.
Russia and Israel have been working to find a way to avoid unintended collisions between their aircraft over Syria since President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to set up a “mechanism” at talks in Moscow last month.
Russia launched a bombing campaign in Syria on September 30 at the request of its long-standing ally Bashar Assad that Moscow says is targeting Islamic State jihadists and other “terrorist” groups.
Israel has reportedly launched air strikes in Syria against Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah and Israeli officials are believed to fear that Russia’s intervention could limit their room for maneuvre.
The United States and its allies involved in a coalition bombing IS have sharply criticised Russia’s air campaign and say that the majority of its strikes have hit more moderate rebel groups fighting Assad.
Moscow has blasted the accusations and says Washington has rebuffed calls to cooperate more closely.
Moscow protest against Russia role in Syria
Around 200 people demonstrated in Moscow on Saturday against Russia’s campaign of air strikes in Syria, with one protester arrested by police.
The rally by people mainly in their 50s and 60s in a small central park passed off amid tight security as the authorities threw up a strong security cordon.
The demonstrators oppose Moscow’s decision to carry out air strikes which began targeting assorted Syrian rebel groups on September 30.
One opposition party, Solidarnost, had called for a protest — but the majority of those who showed up wore pacifist badges rather than any suggesting political allegiance.
Less than an hour into the demonstration, police arrested a woman waving a banner reading “Putin assassin, don’t bring shame on Russia,” and bundled her into a van.
Police then blocked access to the site to prevent more people joining, but despite their efforts, protesters continued to chant slogans against the military intervention as well as against corruption in Russia.
Some brandished banners promising to visit “hell upon those who bomb in the name of peace.”
Organiser Svetlana Kravietz, 42, told AFP that “war is not what we need in our country — we already have many problems to solve. We are going through a serious economic crisis.”
Fellow protester Dmitri Stipanov, 36, said: “Today they show us initial successes — just as they did at the start with Afghanistan” following the Soviet invasion in 1979.
“But afterwards it all degenerated — and today I think we’re in for a repeat,” Stipanov said.
Kravietz said she believed the air strikes were part of a hidden Moscow agenda.
“We’ve already had a war with Ukraine and now that is calming down we’re off to war in Syria,” she said, seeing the manoeuvre as political skulduggery.
“Some people at the heart of the authorities organise these wars to hang on to power and not to help anybody.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday that Russia is fighting for its national interests in Syria, not for President Bashar al-Assad.
“Of course we are not fighting for specific leaders, we are defending our national interests, on the one hand,” Medvedev said in an interview to air on state television.
“And secondly, we have a request from the lawful authorities (of Syria). That is the basis we are working on,” he said, quoted on the government website.