(MEMO) — Israel has accused Russia of interfering with GPS systems in its airspace, a claim Russia denies.
Israel has been experiencing disruption to GPS systems operating in its airspace for the past month, but had thus far been unable to explain the phenomenon.
Now Israel’s security establishment has claimed the disruptions are the result of “electronic warfare on behalf of the Russian military in defense of planes at Khmeimim Air Base,” a Russian-operated base located south of Latakia on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
Israel’s Army Radio called the incident a “hostile attack,” reporting that an Israeli defence official has now been sent to Russia to discuss the disruption.
The accusations come after Israel’s International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations on Tuesday revealed that “many” aeroplanes had lost signal from their GPS systems near the country’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Following the report, the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) was yesterday forced to stress that “measures are in place to allow safe landings and takeoffs” at the airport despite the disruption.
Russia has, however, rejected these accusations, with Russian Ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, telling Israel’s Army Radio today that reports of Russian interference are “fake news” which “can’t be taken seriously”.
The spat comes just a day after Russian, US and Israeli officials held landmark tripartite talks in Jerusalem to discuss their regional interests. The talks were attended by Russian Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev, US National Security Adviser John Bolton and Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Though Israel had hoped the meeting would achieve some consensus on Iran’s “threat” to the region, in a press conference on Tuesday Patrushev rejected this view, labelling Israeli air strikes in Syria against Iranian forces and its proxies “undesirable” and claiming Iran is “contributing a lot to fighting terrorists on Syrian soil and stabilizing the situation there”.
Israel’s “unofficial” interference in the Syrian civil war and regular air strikes on Iranian positions in the country have often brought it into direct contact with Russia, straining relations between the two powers.
The pair have been engaged in a protracted spat since September after the downing of a Russian military plane over Syrian airspace, during which Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces allegedly mistook the Russian jet for an Israeli aircraft, having been simultaneously responding to Israeli attacks on targets in Latakia.
The incident sparked a diplomatic row after Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed that the Israeli jets carrying out the strikes in Latakia used the Russian plane as cover to allow them to approach their targets without being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Russia placed the blame for the incident – in which 15 Russian personnel died – squarely with Israel, calling its actions “irresponsible” and accusing it of not giving Moscow sufficient notice of the attack.
The Israeli army was forced to open an investigation into the incident, dispatching the Air Force Chief to present its findings in the Russian capital. Only ten days after the incident, Russia decided to act on its long-postponed decision to deliver S-300 missiles to Syria to act as a sophisticated anti-aircraft system.
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