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Israel warns Russia over giving air defence missiles to Syria

Israel warns Russia over giving air defence missiles to Syria

Jerusalem: Israel on Tuesday warned Russia that it would act if Moscow goes ahead with its plan to supply state-of-the-art long-range air defence missiles to the embattled regime in Syria.

Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Russia's intent to supply Syrian army with the advanced anti-aircraft systems is "a threat, as far as we're concerned," but asserted that the weapons have yet to be shipped out.

"I can't say there's been an acceleration (in weapons delivery)," Ha'aretz newspaper quoted him as saying. "The shipments haven't set out yet and I hope they won't. If they do arrive in Syria, God forbid, we'll know what to do."

A top Russian diplomat confirmed that Moscow will provide the Syrian regime with state-of-the art air defence missiles to prevent foreign intervention in the country.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov didn't say whether Russia has already shipped any of the long-range S-300 air defence missile systems, but added that Moscow isn't going to abandon the deal despite strong Western and Israeli criticism.

The missiles have a range of up to 200 kilometres and the ability to hit multiple targets simultaneously.

Ryabkov said the deal helps restrain some "hot heads" considering a military intervention in Syria.

Russia has been the key ally of President Bashar Assad's regime, protecting it from UN sanctions and providing it with weapons while the regime fights a battle of survival against rebels in a strife that has claimed over 70,000 lives in nearly two years.

The Israeli Defence Minister's statement appears to contradict remarks made by Israel Air Force chief Maj Gen Amir Eshel, who said last week that Assad's regime has invested millions in purchasing anti-aircraft missiles and that the S-300 shipment "is on its way."

Russia's foreign minister earlier this month said that Moscow had no new plans to sell the S-300 missiles to Syria but left open the possibility of delivering such systems under an existing contract.

Israel is concerned that the weapons meant for Syria's arsenal could fall into the hands of Hizbullah, which is fighting alongside Assad against the rebels in Syria.

As per foreign media reports last month, Israel launched air strikes in Syria, targeting medium-range missiles that had arrived from Iran and were destined for Hizbullah.

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