Following the joint U.S., French and British missile attack against the Assad regime in Syria, Russia said it might consider supplying S-300 missile systems to its longtime ally.
The possible delivery of the Russian air defense systems is expected to cause further tension over Syria as it would certainly alarm Israel, which enjoyed freedom of movement in Syrian air space for years. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has carried out at least 150 bombing raids in Syria, according to the former Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Zvi Magen.
The latest raid took place April 9, when two Israeli warplanes struck the Assad regime's T-4 military base in Homs province, killing 14 fighters, including Iranian forces.
The state-of-the-art S-300 is capable of engaging up to six targets simultaneously, with two missiles assigned per target to ensure a high kill probability. The missile systems have a range of 200 kilometers (120 miles), which cover the airspace of Lebanon, sometimes used by Israeli planes to strike Syria and Israel itself.
According to former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, the deployment of S-300 in Syria has been a concern for Israel in the past two decades.
Elena Suponina, a Middle East expert at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which advises the Kremlin, told Bloomberg that the delivery of the systems to the Assad regime "would fuel tensions in the region and cause major friction with Israel."
The Assad regime was set to get the missile defense systems in 2013, but Russian President Vladimir Putin froze the deal after talks with EU leaders and Israel. He stressed, however, that Russia would review the decision if the U.S. attacked. In the wake of the missile strikes against the regime, the delivery of the S-300 looks more than likely.
Experts believe that with the S-300s the Assad regime will be in possession of a comprehensive air defense umbrella.
The U.S., the U.K. and France hit the Assad regime in Syria with missile strikes last week in response to a suspected poison gas attack that killed more than 70 civilians. Russian military and the regime said most of the missiles were intercepted, while U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted "mission accomplished" following the strikes.