Russians Warn Israel Against ‘Provocations’

YERUSHALAYIM -
(Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Fallout from the downing of a Russian plane over Syria in September continues to plague the IDF’s relations with their military counterparts.

The latest sign of friction was a veiled warning issued by the Russian Defense Ministry against Israeli “provocations” in Syria.

The warning, folded into a larger statement about events in Syria, did not mention Israel, but Russian sources have confirmed that it was aimed at Israel.

Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry, noted that “Russian soldiers are monitoring the situation at six observation posts along the line of separation,” and that the S-300 missile had been deployed “in order to increase the level of security of the Russian military personnel, aviation flights and the protection of objects in Syria.”

Konashenkov continued: “Russian advisors are preparing Syrian military personnel for combat work on these modern air defense systems. We believe it is advisable for ‘hotheads’ to adequately assess the current situation in the region and refrain from provocative actions on the territory of Syria.”

The reference to “hotheads,” it seems, was to Israeli air force officers whom the Russians apparently still blame for the September incident. Israel has denied responsibility, but pledged to work with Russia to improve “deconfrontation” protocols.

Bilateral relations were further aggravated by a follow-up IAF raid on the Hmeimim base in Syria over a month ago, which had been reported on social media in the Middle East, where users monitor military activity in the region.

Moscow was said to be “raging mad” over it, Ynet reported on Thursday.

The attack was apparently aimed at testing the Russian response to Israel’s continued policy of aggressively targeting Iranian and other threats in the country. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had said that Russian complaints would not deter the IDF from providing security along the northern border.

The Russians did not allow the attack to go unnoticed. Moscow reportedly registered a strong protest through the Russian-Israeli military liaison system, but chose not to make their displeasure public.

Ynet cited Israeli defense sources who explained that the rift continues because the Russians are seeking to impose new rules of coordination on Israel that could hamper the effectiveness of IDF operations in Syria.

Israeli military officials are hesitant to fully comply with Russian coordination demands, which they fear could result in leaks to the Iranians and Syrians, and thereby pose unacceptable risks to IAF pilots.