Despite Syrian President Bashar Assad’s recent claim to the contrary, he does not yet have any Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told a Knesset committee on Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported.
If such a transfer were to occur, it would not be for some time, and even then experts say it could take months before they are operational.
Ya’alon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel is “following with concern the possibility that Russia will send the S-300 system to Syria, but if they will make the delivery, it would only occur in 2014.”
The Russian missiles have been the subject of much anxious speculation in recent weeks, since they could pose a significant challenge to Israel’s all-important air superiority vis-à-vis Syria. In addition, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz warned last week that S-300 missiles have potential as an offensive weapon against civilian planes in Israeli airspace.
In what was his first briefing of the committee since taking over as Defense Minister in March, Yaalon also revealed that Israel is providing humanitarian assistance along the border and treating some casualties.
“We are keeping a low profile in this matter,” he said. “We have no intention of building refugee camps.”
In further comments on the Syrian front, Yaalon said that Hizbullah is moving its elite forces into Syria, and that the country has become a battleground between the Shia and Sunni Muslims, with each side “massacring the other.” Assad controls 40 percent of the country, he said.
Yaalon reiterated that Israel will remain outside the conflict as long as its security interests are not harmed.