News Brief – September 19, 2010
After failing to prevent the sale of a Russian anti-ship missile to Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the deal as a “problematic and troubling”.
Earlier in September Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak had travelled to Moscow to try and prevent the sale of the P-800 Yakhont cruise missile from being finalised.
Nonetheless, Russia subsequently agreed to supply Syria with 72 of the supersonic cruise missiles for coastal defence.
Israel is known to be deeply concerned over the possibility that the weapon could fall into the hands of Hezbollah.
A missile fired by Hezbollah hit an IDF ship whilst it was imposing a blockade on Lebanon during the 2006 war. The blast left the Israeli missile ship badly damaged and killed four IDF sailors.
The missile was a C-802 radar-guided anti-shipping missile manufactured in Iran using Chinese technology. Its range is estimated to be about 110 km and it carries a 165-kilo warhead.
In contrast the P-800 Yakhont has an estimated range of 300 km and can carry 200 kilogram warhead.
News of the sale was confirmed on Friday when Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told reporters in Washington that Moscow would fulfil the 2007 contract to supply the cruise missiles to Damascus.
The deal was confirmed despite Israeli efforts and U.S. opposition to the sale.
A Washington state department official told reporters that the U.S. had been consulting with other governemnts over this sale and others that were causing “alarm”.
The sale is thought to be worth at least 300 million dollars.
Israel is still technically at war with Syria after it seized the Lebanese Shebba Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War.
The P-800 is designed to travel just meters above the surface of the water, making it extremely difficult to identify by radar or intercept.
Last week while the sale of the P-800 was still unconfirmed, Haaretz reported that a shipment of the missiles had already arrived in Syria. Quoting “Western diplomats”, the newspaper reported that Damascus was in the process of forming a regional alliance with Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.
Last updated 21/09/2010