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Has Syria Already Gotten Advanced Russian Missiles?

The Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar quoted Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as saying that “Syria has received the first shipment of Russian anti-aircraft S-300 rockets” in an interview broadcast Thursday on Al Manar, a Lebanese television station operated by Assad’s ally, Hizbullah. The S-300 is considered one of the world’s most advanced missile defense systems. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu even traveled to Moscow earlier this month to try to convince Russia to scrap the deal. “If the missiles are provided and become operational Israel’s entire airspace will become a no-fly zone,” Netanyahu told European foreign ministers. “The missile transfer is a significant security challenge to Israel and we will not be able to stand idly by.” Israeli military sources say that it will take at least several months before Syrian soldiers learn to operate the system. Israeli officials said they were “checking” the report that Assad received the first shipment of the missiles.

In the same television interview, Assad said his government will retaliate against any Israeli attack on his territory. Earlier this month, Israeli planes allegedly targeted Iranian missiles intended for Hizbullah. He also said Syria would not prevent any Arab faction who wants to “liberate” the Golan Heights. Israel acquired the Golan Heights during the 1967 war and later annexed it to Israel. Assad says it is occupied Syrian territory.

Assad also said that there are more than 100,000 combatants of various nationalities fighting on Syrian territory.