Israeli Justice Minister Tzippi Livni warned that “Israel has a right to defend itself” in the wake of reports that Russia provided advanced naval missiles to Syria.
“We see that Syria is disintegrating and a weapons shipment is certainly not a positive development, it destabilizes the area,” Army Radio quoted Livni as saying in reaction to a New York Times report Friday that Russia has sent advanced antiship Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria.
She added: “Israel has a right to defend itself. Elaborating on this issue is ill-advised.”
According to the Times, quoting U.S. intelligence sources, the Yakhonts recently delivered to Syria are equipped with advanced radar, making them more effective than earlier batches sent by Russia to Syria.
“It enables the regime to deter foreign forces looking to supply the opposition from the sea, or from undertaking a more active role if a no-fly zone or shipping embargo were to be declared at some point,” said Nick Brown, editor in chief of IHS Jane’s International Defense Review. “It’s a real ship killer.”
Israel is believed to have carried out three strikes on Syria this year, targeting weapons transfers. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu reportedly asked Putin to prevent the supply to Syria of Russian S-300 air defense systems.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Thursday that Russia would remain committed to “agreements pertaining to aerial defense weapons,” Ynet reported.
Russia has until now heeded U.S. and Israeli requests to delay delivery of the S-300 systems.