Russia criticizes Israeli airstrikes in Syria.. The Goal: A new understanding

President of the Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog (Edited by Enab Baladi)

President of the Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog (Edited by Enab Baladi)


Contrary to the path that Russia had taken in previous years, Moscow recently commented twice on Israeli strikes on military sites in Damascus and Aleppo inside Syria, after its comments were previously infrequent and repetitive.

Eight days separate the two comments, the first by the permanent Russian representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, who considered the Israeli raids on Syria a “threat of a comprehensive regional confrontation,” during a meeting of the Security Council.

While the second came from the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, who described the Israeli strikes as “completely unacceptable, provocative, and fraught with risks.”

Moscow’s comment on the Israeli strikes twice in a short period of time is striking, especially since it kept silent for dozens of strikes, while Israel did not cease its attacks on various sites and military points in the capital Damascus and its countryside, Aleppo, and the rural areas of Hama, Tartus, and Homs.

For nearly four years, Russian statements condemning the Israeli targeting of sites in Syria could be counted on one hand and were infrequent.

“A threat of a regional confrontation”

On March 21, Vasily Nebenzya said that the Israeli raids on Syria threatened “a comprehensive regional confrontation,” adding that Moscow is particularly concerned about the intensification of Israeli attacks.

Nebenzya mentioned that such “irresponsible acts carry the risk of dragging Syria and a number of its neighbors into a broad regional confrontation.”

Following Israeli strikes that targeted a site in the countryside of Damascus and various areas in Aleppo city, resulting in 40 deaths on March 29, Zakharova stated that the Israeli strikes on Syria are “completely unacceptable,” and that Moscow condemns these actions and considers them “provocative” and fraught with risks.

Zakharova added that such “aggressive actions” are a flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and the basic rules of international law, carrying very serious consequences in the context of deteriorating regional conditions.

According to Enab Baladi‘s monitoring, the latest Russian comment on Israeli strikes in Syria dates back to last January when Israel targeted “an Iranian military advisory center in the Sayyida Zainab region in the Damascus countryside,” and Zakharova then said that the strikes were a “gross violation” of Syria’s sovereignty and international law.

Prior to that comment, Russia condemned strikes on Damascus International Airport in November 2023, describing them as provocative and dangerous, and mentioned that they could lead to an escalation of tension in “the region already inflamed by the war in Gaza.”

Zakharova stated at the time, “We are convinced that such a despicable practice is fraught with very serious consequences, especially in the context of the sharp deterioration of the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict area, resulting in increased tension in the region.”

Explicit condemnation, implicit acceptance

Moscow condemns these strikes and shows displeasure towards them, and Russian official public statements indicate that there is no agreement with Israel to allow it to target sites in Syria. However, Russian-Israeli understandings have long been evident and not confined to closed rooms but clear for years.

On October 24, 2021, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that Russia showed a clear interest in Israel’s security needs regarding the situation in Syria.

Bennett clarified that the meeting with Putin witnessed new and stable agreements (details not disclosed), adding that he found in the Russian president “an attentive ear regarding Israel’s security needs.”

On November 2, 2021, the Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, spoke of a Russian-Israeli consensus on removing Iran from the Syrian scene, which took place during the meeting between Bennett and Putin (on October 22, 2021).

The newspaper stated that Israel works on “the difficult task of destroying Iran’s dreams of regional dominance” by carrying out hundreds of airstrikes against its sites in Syria.

The paper quoted the Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, Ze’ev Elkin, who was the translator for the Putin-Bennett meeting, stating that the two sides agreed to continue Israel’s policy towards Syria, including the airstrikes.

Diplomatic escalation, not military

Dmitry Bridzhe, director of the Russian Studies Unit at the Center of Arabic Eurasian Studies (CAES), told Enab Baladi that although Russia condemns Israel, there are Russian-Israeli understandings regarding the Syrian file, and this understanding is not new but dates back to 2016, thus, Russia condemns the strikes. He also ruled out that the matter could escalate to a Russian military response at the current time, as that would mean a direct clash between Russia and Israel and its allies.

Bridzhe believes that Moscow’s comment on the Israeli strikes shows strong disapproval, with Russia expressing its concern about the escalation of tensions and their impact on the regional situation, suggesting that the purpose of this statement is to affirm that Israeli military actions represent a threat to regional stability and are increasing tensions in Syria.

The researcher believes that the timing of the comment could indicate potential future understandings between Russia and Israel regarding the situation in Syria, and the comment may signal the need for diplomatic escalation rather than military.

Possibly, according to Bridzhe, it could be an attempt to defuse tensions and find peaceful solutions to the ongoing conflicts in Syria, and besides, there may be a desire to maintain diplomatic relations between the two countries despite differences in approach towards the Syrian crisis.


Moscow and Israel have unique understandings and relationships, despite the existence of complex and difficult issues such as Palestine and the war in Ukraine, where there is competition between Russia and the West. However, Israel is part of the West, hence Moscow was not friendly with it on one hand, nor an enemy on the other, and these skirmishes will not escalate into a direct clash.

Dmitry Bridzhe, director of the Russian Studies Unit at the Center of Arabic Eurasian Studies (CAES)


Continuous bombing met with promises of retaliation

Hours after the raids, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hinted at expanding Israeli assassination operations and targeting in Syria and Lebanon during a visit he made to the Northern Command headquarters of the Israeli army, near the border with Lebanon.

Gallant assured the continuation of pursuing Hezbollah wherever they operate, increasing the pressure and rate of attacks until the Israeli objectives are achieved, causing a change in the security reality in the north (near the south Lebanese border), and the return of “residents” (referring to settlers) to their “homes” safely.

On the other hand, the Syrian regime’s statements regarding the response to Israeli strikes in Syria remain confined to statements and press conferences, with only threats and condemnations of any targeting being issued.

On February 11, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stated that Syria has fought many wars against Israel and remains fully ready to fight other wars by deciding when, where, and how, noting that ending the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan is “a priority and sacred mission for the Syrian people.”

Mekdad considered the repeated Israeli attacks on Syrian territory that violate international law as a result of “Syrian resistance to this entity and its schemes since its establishment on Palestinian land and its occupation of Arab territories”.

He indicated that the resistance takes various forms, expressing readiness to wage a “new war” against Israel, according to him.


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