Russia is to supply ally Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with eight S-300 surface-to-air missile systems despite opposition from neighbouring Israel, just a week after Moscow accused Tel Aviv of causing the downing of a Russian military jet in Syria.
The systems are to be transported over the next two weeks and will be distributed across the country so as to cover the entire Syrian air space along its borders, Russian news website Kommersant reported this morning.
Russia is also reportedly boosting its electronic warfare systems to prevent the activation of satellite tracking systems along Syria's coast, making it harder for neighbouring countries to conduct air strikes.
The decision came after Russia accused Israel of being indirectly at fault for the downing of a Russian military plane, after Damascus mistook the aircraft for an Israeli jet. Some 15 Russian service personnel were killed after being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft batteries that were simultaneously responding to Israeli fighter jets in the coastal region of Latakia.
Israel, which usually informs Russia of its planned strikes beforehand, was accused of breaking protocol by only giving Russia details of the planned operation one minute prior to the attack, which proved insufficient time to get the plane to safety.
The shooting was the deadliest known case of friendly fire between Syria and key backer Russia since Moscow's game-changing 2015 military intervention.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters that the incident had forced Russia to take "adequate retaliatory measures" to keep its troops safe. He added that the system will "significantly increase the Syrian army's combat capabilities".
The Israeli security cabinet convened earlier this morning to discuss the diplomatic crisis with Russia ahead of Netanyahu's departure to New York to attend the UN General Assembly where he is also expected to bring up the row with Russia with US President Donald Trump.
Yesterday the White House condemned the proposed move, with US National Security Adviser John Bolton deeming the transfer a "significant escalation" by Moscow, adding that he hoped Russia would reconsider.
"There shouldn't be any misunderstanding here … The party responsible for the attacks in Syria and Lebanon and really the party responsible for the shooting down of the Russian plane is Iran," he said.
Earlier this week, an Israeli delegation to Moscow allegedly showed proof that it was not responsible for the skirmish.
"We proved how the Syrian reckless anti-air fire was the direct cause of hitting the Russian aircraft. They fired quite recklessly and irresponsibly and unprofessionally into the air long after our planes were no longer there," an official said of the meeting, adding that Israel had also given sufficient warning time for the plane to move.
Israel is also believed to be participating in the search for the downed jet, with Syrian news agency Zaman Al-Wasl citing anonymous Syrian officials who confirmed that three Israeli naval ships had crossed into Syrian territorial waters this week in cooperation with Russian forces.
Israel has been carrying out air strikes in Syria in 2013 against suspected arms transfers and deployments by Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. Both have backed the regime of President Al-Assad in the seven-year long conflict against revolutionary forces in the country.