Russia's foreign ministry says the Israeli ambassador to Moscow was summoned to explain an exchange of fire last week between Israeli jets and Syrian government forces.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Monday that Russia could “play an important role” in preventing a military clash between Syria and Israel.
Assad’s comments came after Syria fired a number of surface-to-air missiles at Israeli fighter jets carrying out airstrikes in Syria on Friday, marking the most serious incident between the two countries since the start of the Syrian civil war six years ago. The missiles did not threaten the Israeli jets, but Israel used its Arrow missile defense system to intercept one of the three Syrian missiles fired.
Speaking to Russian reporters on Monday in Damascus, Assad also defended the decision to fire anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli warplanes, saying it was an issue of protecting the Syrian sovereignty.
“Defending our borders is our right, and it’s our duty, not only our right. If we don’t do it as officials, when we can do it, we should be blamed by the Syrian people, we should be held accountable,” the Russian state-sponsored Sputnik news agency quoted him as saying.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman vowed that Israel would destroy Syrian air defense systems if they again fire on Israeli jets.
“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes, we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Liberman said on Israel Radio.
Asked to respond to Liberman’s comments, Assad said Syria’s decision-making would not be dictated by statements by Israeli leaders.
“We don’t have to ask ourselves that question, whether there were statements by Israeli officials or not. We don’t base our policy and decisions on their statements.”
On Monday, Liberman said that while Israel does not seek to intervene in the Syrian conflict, the Jewish state will continue to carry out airstrikes in Syria if provoked in order to defend its interests, saying, “we have no intention of changing our policy.”