Iranian and Russian media reported that earlier this month, two Russian Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes were sent out from Khmeimim airbase near Latakia to prevent the Israeli Air Force from carrying out a strike against the Syrian Air Force T-4 base located in the Homs district.
The Russian military aviation blog AVIA.PRO wrote the following:
“Israeli fighters had to flee from the Russian Su-35. Iran delivered unknown air defense systems to Syria.”
The Israeli attack was planned against an advanced weapons shipment that was transferred by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps from Iran to the Syrian airbase via civilian airliner.
It is believed that the T-4 base is used to store Iranian-made parts for drones and is also used as a transit point for weapons shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is protected by the Russian S-300 anti-air systems.
If the report is true, this was not the first time Russia interfered with an IAF strike. In September, Independent Arabia reported that the Russian military in Syria prevented three Israeli airstrikes on three Syrian military targets. The Russian threatened that any jets attempting an airstrike in Syria would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. The report claimed a similar situation happened twice before and in August, Russia stopped an airstrike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where an S-300 anti-air battery is placed.
The Russian Foreign MinistryIsrael reported that Israel conducted four airstrikes in Syria between November 12 and November 20. Israel has reportedly carried out thousands of strikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq in recent years but the intensity has increased recently due to Iran increasing its military presence in Syria from about 30,000 local militiamen to approximately 40,000 militiamen over the last year.
The U.S. is also involved in this game of air-chess. Debka Files reported that last week, Shiite militias fired five rockets into the U.S. Ain Al-Assad airbase in western Iraq. Last Tuesday, American warplanes attacked the Shiite base in the Iranian Al Qods Brigades military compound near Abu Kamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border and destroyed their rocket launchers.
“This contest has therefore undergone a radical change,” Debka wrote. “From now on, both the US and Israel air forces may respond to Iranian provocations, while Tehran may also start hitting back when its forces are attacked.”
On December 5, The New York Times reported Iran is transferring short-range ballistic missiles to Iraq that threaten Israel.