Israel Air Force officer: ‘Syria’s the global stage, everybody’s playing there’

This is likely the very first time it’s been reported that Russia is launching ballistic missiles into Syria from its own territory. Using war as a playground for new toys is not new, however.


An Israeli F-16I fighter jet during an exercise in the United States in 2009. (Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald/US Department of Defense/Wikimedia)



Senior official gives military’s view of Syrian civil war, and how Israeli jets navigate the dangerously full skies next door

For years, Israel was without rival in the skies over the Middle East, but with the Russian military placing an advanced anti-aircraft system — the S-400 — in Syria, that dynamic has changed and turned the once open skies into a far more difficult space to navigate, according to a senior Israeli Air Force official.

“We’re living in interesting times,” the officer told reporters Sunday night, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A United States-led coalition of some 17 countries has been leading a large aerial campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have teamed up with the Bashar Assad regime to fight the various rebel groups threatening to topple the Alawite leader.

“Syria’s the global stage, everybody’s playing there,” the senior officer said.

Mixing metaphors, the officer also compared the situation in Syria to a military “laboratory,” where the visiting armies have been testing new weaponry and tactics.

“You can check weapons systems. You can check doctrines,” the officer said.

The Russians have tried and used “everything they have” — firing ballistic missiles from Russia into Syria, sending their lone aircraft carrier into the area, flying sorties out of Iran — “and they’re not the only ones,” he said.

Russia in Syria: A ‘challenge’ for Israel

In light of the heavy Russian presence, Israel in September 2015 set up a mechanism with Moscow — involving work groups led by the deputy chiefs of both militaries — to avoid conflicts and potentially fatal misunderstandings.

However, the officer stressed that this system was limited: Israel does not inform the Russians before conducting airstrikes in Syria, nor does Russia let the Israelis in on its plans.

“Cooperating is not the right term. We do not coordinate [with Russia]. It’s about deconfliction and security measures so they don’t harm us, and we don’t harm them,” the officer said Sunday.

Full article: Israel Air Force officer: ‘Syria’s the global stage, everybody’s playing there’ (The Times of Israel)

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