An Airbus A320 with 172 passengers on board made an emergency landing in Russia-controlled Khmeimim Air Base after Syria‘s air defence nearly hit it because of Israel’s air raids, Russian state news agency RIA said on Friday citing a Russian defence ministry spokesman.
The flight en route from Tehran to Damascus narrowly escaped “the lethal zone of artillery fire” as the Syrian air defence forces were trying to repulse an Israeli attack near Damascus on Thursday, RIA said.
“Israeli General Staff’s military operations in air using passenger jets for cover or block of response fire by Syrian missile systems is becoming a typical trait of Israeli Air Force,” the spokesman said.
According to the spokesman, after 2am local time (00:00 GMT), four Israeli F-16 fighter jets struck eight air-to-ground missiles in the suburbs of Damascus without entering Syrian airspace, RIA reported.
“Only thanks to prompt actions of dispatchers at Damascus airport and effective work of the automated system of monitoring air traffic, the Airbus-320 was escorted from the danger zone and assisted in successfully landing at an aerodrome at the Russian airbase Khmeimim,” the spokesman said.
Early on Thursday, the Syrian defence ministry said Syrian air defences intercepted Israeli missiles over Damascus that were fired at military targets in southern Syria including near the capital.
The attacks by Israeli warplanes were launched in two waves, one near Damascus and another near Deraa and Quneitra provinces, it said.
The Syrian air defences downed a large number of missiles but the attacks had caused material damage and injured eight “fighters”, it said, without specifying their nationality.
The Israeli military declined to comment.
Israel has carried out repeated raids in Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011, mainly targeting government forces and their Iranian and Hezbollah allies.
Israel’s political leadership has spoken publicly of the bombing campaign, although the army rarely comments on individual raids.