Syrian missile defense systems nearly shot down a passenger plane with 172 people on board while responding to an attack near Damascus airport this week, Russian defense ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.
The Airbus 320 traveling from Tehran was preparing to land in Damascus early on Thursday, February 6 when Israeli F-16 fighter jets fired air-to-surface missiles at targets near the airport, Tass reported Konashenkov as saying.
The plane was “escorted out of the danger zone and assisted in landing” at Hmeimim airbase, he said.
Konashenkov accused the Israeli Air Force of using passenger jets for cover while carrying out operations in Syria.
Israel rarely confirms reports of its missions in neighboring Syria, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the IAF struck Syrian targets “hundreds” of times in recent years. Most of Israel’s bombardments have targeted Syrian military infrastructure or Iran-backed groups allied with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The Russian claim comes just weeks after Iran admitted shooting down a Ukrainian civilian airliner in the wake of tit-for-tat missile strikes in Iraq after a U.S. drone strike killed one of its top generals, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani.