An Airbus A320 with 172 passengers on board made an emergency landing in Russia-controlled Khmeimim Air Base after Syria’s air defence nearly hit it because of Israel’s air raids, Russian state news agency RIA said on Friday citing a Russian defence ministry spokesman.
The flight en route from Tehran to Damascus narrowly escaped “the lethal zone of artillery fire” as the Syrian air defence forces were trying to repulse an Israeli attack near Damascus on Thursday, RIA said.
Flightradar24.com historical database indeed confirms something occurred to Cham Wing Airlines flight 6Q514 / SAW514, an Airbus 320, registration YK-BAB, flying from Najaf, Iraq, to Damascus, Syria, on Feb. 6, 2020. The track (gathered via ADS-B) shows the aircraft approaching Damascus airport around 23.10 UTC, then diverting to Khmeimim air base, in northwestern Syria, near Latakia.
“Israeli General Staff’s military operations in air using passenger jets for cover or block of response fire by Syrian missile systems is becoming a typical trait of Israeli Air Force,” the spokesman said.
According to the spokesman, after 2am local time (00:00 GMT), four Israeli F-16 fighter jets struck eight air-to-ground missiles in the suburbs of Damascus without entering Syrian airspace, RIA reported.
“Only thanks to prompt actions of dispatchers at Damascus airport and effective work of the automated system of monitoring air traffic, the Airbus-320 was escorted from the danger zone and assisted in successfully landing at an aerodrome at the Russian airbase Khmeimim,” the spokesman said.
Based on reports, the A320 was diverted by the Damascus ATC (Air Traffic Control) as the Syrian air defense systems engaged four Israeli F-16s and was on high alert due to incoming missiles, and the civilian could have found itself in the crossfire.
According to Russia Today, the Russian Defense Ministry also added that using civilian aircraft as a “shield” is “commonplace” for Israeli Air Force pilots.
Tel Aviv is perfectly aware of civilian flight routes and air activity around Damascus, day and night, and such reckless missions prove that Israeli strategists could not care less about possible civilian casualties, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.
This is not the first time Israeli fighter jets have endangered civilian aircraft. Moscow criticized Tel Aviv for putting two passenger flights landing at Beirut and Damascus airports in danger during an air raid in 2018. Israel has flown hundreds of similar bombing raids on Syria throughout the country’s civil war, claiming to be hitting “legitimate Iranian targets.”
The Israeli military declined to comment.
Israel has carried out repeated raids in Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011, mainly targeting government forces and their Iranian and Hezbollah allies.
Israel’s political leadership has spoken publicly of the bombing campaign, although the army rarely comments on individual raids.