Russian Su-35 jets scrambled to stop Israel over Syria - reports
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                  Russian Su-35 jets scrambled to stop Israel over Syria - reports

                  Russian Su-35 jets scrambled to stop Israel over Syria - reports

                  09.12.2019, Israel and the World

                  Iranian and Russian media reported that Russian Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes were scrambled from Russia’s Khmeimim air base in northern Syria to intercept an alleged Israeli attack near the Tiyas Military Airbase, also known as the T-4 Airbase earlier this month. The report on the alleged attack on the Syrian Arab Air Force base east of Homs was first put online in a blog at Avia. It was picked up by the website Almasdar News. The Tasnim News in Iran then claimed that the Su-35s sought to intercept Israeli planes over Syria. The reports claim that “Israeli fighters had to flee from the Russian Su-35” and at the same time that “Iran delivered unknown air defense systems to Syria.” The T-4 base is a well-known transit point for Iranian weapons, and has Russian personnel stationed there. Israel has been accused of striking the area in the past. In May 2018, Ynet said that Israel carried out an airstrike to destroy an Iranian 3rd Khordad Air Defense system at T-4. Syria claimed more airstrikes hit the area in June and July of this year and September last year.

                  The reports at the Avia website follow other reports at the same site that often write sensational accounts about alleged Israeli actions in Syria. For instance, the same site reported on December 8 that “Israel is preparing new strikes on Syria.” Al-Masdar News reported that the Iranian Bavar-373 air defense was deployed to the area. Both reports appeared to rely on a Twitter account named @Syrian_MC for their information. That account indicated that Russia had scrambled its jets and that the “incident” ended on December 6.

                  The National Interest reported that Su-35s had been scrambled in August and “forced Israeli aircraft out of Syrian airspace,” and the website DefenseWorld made a similar claim in September. Other defense websites have argued the SU-35 is a capable fighter, deployed to Syria in small numbers after it became operational in 2014. Russia’s TASS said in 2018 the fighter is “battle tested in Syrian skies.” It is a 4th Generation “plus” fighter that is super maneuverable and can fly up to 2,500 km per hour. That’s slightly faster than an F-16.

                  IRAN’S TASNIM media appeared to celebrate the claim that Russia had “pursued” Israeli aircraft and “forced” them to leave. The story emerged at the same time as reports that satellite images had shown a cargo plane land at T-4 and unload munitions that could be used in a “revenge attack” by Iran against Israel, according to Israel HaYom. Those images were from November 21, a day after the airstrikes Israel says it carried out against Iranian IRGC targets in Syria. “A large cargo trailer on the runway of the Iran operated T-4 base located in Homs district” was shown. “Israel reportedly refrained from targeting the T-4 base due to its division into three areas controlled by Russian, Iranian and Syrian army, raising challenges that would require precise coordination with Moscow on top of the base’s more formidable security arsenal that include the S-300 anti-aircraft system.”

                  Russia provided S-300s to Syria in October 2018 after a Syrian S-200 shot down a Russian plane during an Israeli airstrike in Latakia. The incident caused a momentary crises with Russia at the time.

                  Syrian air defense is known for firing its S-200s wildly, one time shooting a missile that hit Cyprus by mistake in July 2019, and in 2017 firing a missile that had to be downed by an Arrow air defense system over Jordan, according to the BBC.

                  Russia released information on November 21 accusing Israel of four days of attacks in Syria in November, including the November 20 raids and an airstrike at Albukamal and two near Damascus on November 12 and 19. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday to discuss various issues, including Syria. Pompeo met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Portugal last week and Oman’s foreign minister on November 26. When Netanyahu met Pompeo on December 5, he said that Israel was actively countering Iranian aggression. Pompeo expressed support for Israel’s countering of Iran in August and October. On December 5, The New York Times reported Iran is transferring short range ballistic missiles to Iraq that threaten Israel. Airstrikes on Saturday near Albukamal killed five pro-Iranian fighters.

                  By SETH J. FRANTZMAN