Israel 'Will Know What to Do' over Russia Missiles

Israel "will know what to do" if Russia delivers anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, its defense minister said Tuesday, in an apparent allusion to another air strike on the war-torn neighboring country.

"The deliveries have not taken place, and I hope they do not. But if, by misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do," Moshe Yaalon said.

His comments came after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said providing the missiles to the regime of President Bashar Assad would be a "stabilizing factor" aimed at deterring any foreign intervention in Syria.

Speaking in Moscow, Ryabkov said "we consider these supplies a stabilizing factor and believe such steps will deter some hotheads from considering scenarios that would turn the conflict international with the involvement of outside forces."

Earlier this month, Israel launched air raids inside Syria targeting what sources said were arms destined for its arch foe, Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, whose fighters have entered the conflict alongside the Syrian army.

The strikes ramped up regional tension, with Syria threatening to hit back.

Israel and Russia's opposing standpoints over Syria surfaced shortly afterwards, with the Jewish state criticizing Russian arms deals with Assad, and Moscow appearing to warn against further Israeli strikes.

The minister also stressed that the weapons were purely defensive, insisting that they were designed to protect the regime against outside forces, rather than serving to crush the domestic opposition.

Ryabkov reiterated that Russia's arms deliveries to Assad's forces were legitimate because they were conducted under pre-war agreements that were reached with an internationally recognized government.

Nations such as Israel are concerned by Russia's reported decision to supply S-300 surface-to-air missiles that could help Damascus eliminate incoming warplanes and missiles over a radius of dozens of miles.

Ryabkov also argued that the fractured opposition's failure up to this stage to appoint a single representative at the proposed conference was the biggest existing stumbling block to peace.

"The fragmented nature of the groups fighting the government and the inability of our partners including the United States and the EU to ensure a sufficient level of representation by the opposition at the conference are the main stumbling block today."

The European Union agreed late Monday to lift its embargo on arming the opposition after much debate and a strong push for the measure by France and Britain.

Source: Agence France Presse

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