The Russian Ministry of Defence says Israeli F-16 fighter jets carried out strikes with eight air-to-surface missiles on Damascus' suburbs early Thursday, without entering Syrian airspace.
According to the Russian military, a civil Airbus-320 with 172 passengers on board was trying to land at Damascus airport during the Israeli airstrikes that night, but landed instead at the Russian airbase in Hmeymim.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have declined to comment on a Russian statement that Israeli-launched airstrikes on 6 February endangered a civilian plane near Damascus.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry’s spokesman, it has already become a common practice for the Israeli air force to use civil aircraft to shield their own fighter jets from the Syrian air defence systems.
Eight troops were injured and some material damage was caused as a result of Thursday morning's airstrikes on Damascus and other Syrian cities, a Syrian military source said earlier. The military source confirmed the attack was launched from the Golan Heights, part of which has been occupied by Israel since 1967, and from southern Lebanon's airspace. Israel has remained silent about who was responsible for the strikes.
In recent years, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Syria, targeting what Tel Aviv says are "Iranian" or "Iran-backed" forces, which, according to Israeli authorities, threaten the country.
The Syrian government has repeatedly appealed to the United Nations over the Israeli forces' "aggression" and violations of its airspace.
In a similar incident in September 2018, a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane with 15 servicemen on board disappeared from radar screens near Hmeymim Airbase in Syria. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the disappearance coincided with an attack by four Israeli F-16 military jets on Syrian targets in the province of Latakia.
The ministry stated at the time that the Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as a shield, thereby subjecting it to an attack by the Syrian air defense units, with a Syrian S-200 missile ultimately downing the Russian aircraft while attempting to repel Israeli strikes. A total of 15 Russian military servicemen were killed in the aircraft destruction. At the time, Israeli authorities claimed that while they understood Moscow, the Syrian military was responsible for the tragic incident.