Syria's Air Defences Nearly Shot Down a Civilian Airliner

2020/02/1581675115.jpg
Read: 910     14:18     14 February 2020    

By Kyle Mizokami

A Syrian airliner with 172 people on board nearly became the latest commercial jetliner shot down by ground fire. The airliner, on approach to Damascus International Airport, was engaged by Syrian military forces and forced to land at a nearby Russian military base. Russia blamed Israel for the incident, but Moscow’s version of events did not really hold up.


The near-tragedy took place late last week and involved a Cham Wings Airbus A320 commercial jetliner. The airliner was flying between Najaf, Iraq, and Damascus, Syria, when the incident took place. According to The New York Times, Syrian air defence forces directed anti-aircraft gun and missile fire against the Airbus, failing to hit the aircraft. The aircraft diverted to Khmeimim Air Base, Russia’s main military base in the country.

The near-shootdown is yet another example of civilian aircraft caught in the crosshairs in conflict zones. The incident comes just one month after a civilian airliner, bound for Canada, was shot down by Iranian air defence forces as it departed Tehran. In 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by Russian backed separatists over Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard. In 1988, the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 people.

The incident isn’t the first time Syrian air defence forces bungled their mission. In September 2018, Syrian forces shot down a Russian military plane, killing all 15. Russia has been a key Syrian ally in the country's decade-long civil war, providing armaments and support to the Assad regime.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence charged that Israel was actually at fault, claiming that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets were using civilian aircraft as “cover” while conducting air strikes. This is not the first time Russia has made such an accusation—Moscow blamed the 2018 shoot down also on Israel. Israel has flown hundreds of air strikes against targets in Syria, but an Israeli expert quoted by the Times states Israel almost certainly warns Russia of impending strikes through official channels. Without the warnings Russian forces might accidentally engage Israeli forces, and vice-versa.

The real problem at hand doesn’t involve Israel or Russia. The common denominator in both incidents is Syria’s incompetent air defence force. Underlining their ineptitude in this case, Syria’s gunners attacked a large, easy to hit civilian airliner—and missed. In this case it’s actually a good thing the Syrian military was as incompetent as it was, but the next airliner may not be so lucky.

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Syria's Air Defences Nearly Shot Down a Civilian Airliner

2020/02/1581675115.jpg
Read: 911     14:18     14 February 2020    

By Kyle Mizokami

A Syrian airliner with 172 people on board nearly became the latest commercial jetliner shot down by ground fire. The airliner, on approach to Damascus International Airport, was engaged by Syrian military forces and forced to land at a nearby Russian military base. Russia blamed Israel for the incident, but Moscow’s version of events did not really hold up.


The near-tragedy took place late last week and involved a Cham Wings Airbus A320 commercial jetliner. The airliner was flying between Najaf, Iraq, and Damascus, Syria, when the incident took place. According to The New York Times, Syrian air defence forces directed anti-aircraft gun and missile fire against the Airbus, failing to hit the aircraft. The aircraft diverted to Khmeimim Air Base, Russia’s main military base in the country.

The near-shootdown is yet another example of civilian aircraft caught in the crosshairs in conflict zones. The incident comes just one month after a civilian airliner, bound for Canada, was shot down by Iranian air defence forces as it departed Tehran. In 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by Russian backed separatists over Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard. In 1988, the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 people.

The incident isn’t the first time Syrian air defence forces bungled their mission. In September 2018, Syrian forces shot down a Russian military plane, killing all 15. Russia has been a key Syrian ally in the country's decade-long civil war, providing armaments and support to the Assad regime.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence charged that Israel was actually at fault, claiming that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets were using civilian aircraft as “cover” while conducting air strikes. This is not the first time Russia has made such an accusation—Moscow blamed the 2018 shoot down also on Israel. Israel has flown hundreds of air strikes against targets in Syria, but an Israeli expert quoted by the Times states Israel almost certainly warns Russia of impending strikes through official channels. Without the warnings Russian forces might accidentally engage Israeli forces, and vice-versa.

The real problem at hand doesn’t involve Israel or Russia. The common denominator in both incidents is Syria’s incompetent air defence force. Underlining their ineptitude in this case, Syria’s gunners attacked a large, easy to hit civilian airliner—and missed. In this case it’s actually a good thing the Syrian military was as incompetent as it was, but the next airliner may not be so lucky.

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