by News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Russian official warns of "catastrophic consequences" to any Israeli strike against S-300 systems
Russia's advanced S-300 missile systems
Russia plans to deliver new air defense systems to Syria in the near future, the RIA news agency cited Russia's Defense Ministry as saying Wednesday.
The ministry said it plans to study a U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile captured by Syrian forces in a recent attack in order to improve Russian missiles' ability to counter regional and other threats, RIA reported.
Israel has asked Moscow not to deliver advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that Israel may strike the Russian-made defense systems in Syria if they are used against Israel.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Moscow had not yet decided whether it would deliver the S-300 systems to Syria, but it would not make the matter a secret it took such a decision, the TASS news agency reported.
A senior Russian official told the Kommersant newspaper that if Israel attacks the new air defense systems, it will suffer "catastrophic consequences."
Russian defense systems have been deployed in Syria for years, and the majority of the country's air defenses are Russian-made. Since stepping into the Syrian civil war in September 2015, Russia has deployed its S-400 systems to protect its soldiers in Latakia.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring a series of cargo flights from Iran into Syria suspected of carrying weapons systems into Syria for potential use by Assad's regime or Iranian forces deployed in the war-torn country, CNN reported on Wednesday.
A Washington official confirmed to the news network that the United States and Israel are both concerned the cargo could potentially include weapons that could eventually be used to threaten Israel.
While weapons shipments into Syria are not uncommon, flights involving Iran have caught the attention of U.S. intelligence because they took place in the days after the April 13 U.S.-led airstrikes on the Assad regime's chemical weapons arsenal.
Rhetoric between Iran and Israel has also escalated in recent weeks over Iran's increased military presence in areas of Syria that can be used to potentially launch attacks against Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that Israel will not tolerate an "Iranian noose" around its neck, saying the Jewish state will not hesitate to foil such threats.
Israel reportedly struck several targets inside Syria earlier this month including a T4 airbase in Homs province where the Iranians are believed to have set up an unmanned aerial vehicles unit.
A senior Iranian security official said Iran would punish Israel for the recent airstrikes on the T4 air base in Homs. Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said Israel has not yet realized that the era of "hit-and-run" has come to an end and it should pay the price for such "stupidity."
"When a regime thinks that it is entitled to target counterterrorism troops in a move that comes with a planned violation of another country's airspace, it should have certainly thought of its repercussions and reactions," Shamkhani said.
"There will definitely be a punishment of the aggressor but naturally the time, place and quality of the response to this vicious act depends on the Islamic republic's will and choice."
News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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