Russia has called for “concrete action” after their Syrian embassy was hit by mortar fire over the weekend. The Russian government has been increasing their military presence in Syria while giving no word on their objective. The attack on Russia’s Syrian embassy may tip the large Russian force into boots-on-ground fighting against rebels.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said late Sunday that their embassy in Syria had come under “criminal attack.” According to the Ministry statement, “At 09:00 a.m. on September 20, a mortar shell hit the territory of the Russian embassy in Damascus. The shell was driven deep into the earth and made no damage. A large labelled fragment of the shell was later extracted from the earth by Syrian mine clearance specialists. Efforts are now being taken to find out how this shell came across to militants."
Moscow went further to fuel speculation over who was behind the attack by saying they expected a “clear position over this terrorist attack from all members of the international community, including regional parties." Regional parties in Syria include a U.S. led coalition that has been conducting airstrikes in the region against terror group ISIS. The Ministry called for “not mere words” but “actions” as necessary.
The Russian ministry went ahead to state why they suspected foreign influence in the attack. Through a statement, Moscow reported, “The mortar shell was fired at the Russian embassy from the Jobar district, a stronghold of anti-government gunmen. They claim they don’t belong to the Islamic State but have foreign sponsors who bear responsibility to exert influence on illegal armed groups."
The attack came a day before Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew into Moscow to discuss how Russia’s presence in Syria may in turn cause insecurity in Israel. Netanyahu was concerned over the presence of Russian sophisticated military equipment that may find its way into the hands of Hezbollah forces, a militia force backed by Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Hezbollah would then use these arms to rain terror on Jewish state.
U.S. officials have confirmed Russia’s military fleet in Syria to include: 28 combat aircraft, close to 20 helicopters including Mi-15 Hip transport copters and Mi-24 Hind attacks and 9 tanks. Reports on Monday added that Russia had even began flying drone surveillance systems in the Middle East country, Moscow’s first air operations in the country.
Netanyahu said of the trip, “Our policy is to do everything to stop weapons from being sent to Hezbollah.”
Security analysts high up in Israel’s circles have expressed concern over Russia’s involvement in Syria, saying it may create an axis between age old enemies Hezbollah, and now Moscow.
The attack on Russia’s diplomatic mission is a flagrant attack on another sovereign. However, Russia should be careful not to point figures before investigations are concluded as doing so will raise international tensions. The blame game will also not help the thousands of Syrians suffering under oppression by Assad’s regime and ISIS.