Satellite Imagery Suggests Russia-delivered S-300 Defense Systems Not Yet Operational In Syria
Satellite imagery taken by an Israeli company appears to show that the advanced S-300 air defense batteries delivered by Russia to the Syrian regime are not yet operational. Pictures taken by Imagesat International over the northwestern city of Masyaf, the location of numerous alleged Israeli strikes, suggest the missile launchers and accompanying radar systems have not yet been erected. While the status of other such batteries in Syria remains unknown, Maysaf would stand to be the first place where the S-300 would be set up given the area’s sensitive military facilities, including alleged chemical weapons development sites. Moscow transferred in September four interceptor missile launchers to the Assad regime in the wake of the downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian forces that was nevertheless blamed on Israel, which minutes earlier had conducted an aerial operation in Latakia targeting an Iranian weapons depot. The incident caused a major diplomatic row between Jerusalem and the Kremlin, one that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly told his security cabinet is “far worse than we thought;” this, after briefly meeting President Vladimir Putin last week on the sidelines of a conference in Paris. “Putin sees the downing of the plane as a personal affront to his prestige and this is an important component in his perception of power,” the Israeli premier purportedly said. Amid the tensions, Israel has significantly curbed its military operations in Syria, where for two years prior it had been averaging about four missions per week.