Israel’s much-vaunted close cooperation with Russia failed to stop the latter from delivering its S-300 advanced anti-aircraft system to Syria, to which Israel has strenuously objected.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a meeting broadcast by Rossiya 24: “The work was finished a day ago,” adding that the system would improve the security of Russian military personnel in Syria.
Other equipment delivered included radars, control vehicles, and four launchers, he said.
He estimated it would take three months to train Syrian personnel to operate the system.
Russia decided to supply the system after Moscow accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet near Syria in September.
A high-level military delegation was sent to Moscow to present all the Israeli information about the incident, which clearly roiled bilateral relations.
Israel voiced regret at the death of 15 Russian air crew while saying Syrian incompetence was at fault and that it was compelled to continue taking action against suspected deployments of Iranian-backed forces across its northern border.
“We have not changed our strategic line on Iran,” Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Tuesday.
“We will not allow Iran to open up a third front against us. We will take actions as required,” he told Israel Radio.
The White House previously said it hoped Russia would reconsider the move, which U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton called a “significant escalation” of Syria’s seven-year-old war.
A senior Israeli official acknowledged that Syria’s possession of the S-300 posed a “complex challenge” for the IDF that would have to be dealt with to maintain national security, according to The Times of Israel.
“We are dealing with the [decision] in different ways, not necessarily by preventing shipment [of the anti-aircraft system],” the official said.
The official added that he believes Putin understands that while Moscow “made a move, the playing field is very large,” hinting that Israel would continue to act in its own interests and that it had the support of the United States.