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Israeli air defences miss errant Syrian SAM

Israel’s air defences failed to intercept a surface-to-air missile (SAM) that a Syrian S-200 (SA-5) system launched to counter an Israeli airstrike but that then coasted into southern Israel and landed in the Dimona area where the country’s nuclear reactor is located.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said an interceptor it did not identify was launched at a Syrian SAM that was heading into southern Israel on 22 April, but a preliminary investigation indicated there was no interception. It said it responded by striking multiple Syrian SAM batteries, including the one that launched the missile.

”An SA-5 [S-200] anti-aircraft missile was fired and crossed the border. There was an attempt to intercept it, but it was unsuccessful,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz confirmed to journalists.

A second missile from an S-200 was filmed after it crashed in northern Cyprus.

The S-200 can engage aircraft up to 300 km away so one of its large, liquid-propellant 5V21-series missiles could travel further before hitting the ground, depending on its trajectory, although they should self-destruct if they fail to find a target.

The Syrian Ministry of Defence said Israeli aircraft flying over the Golan Heights carried out strikes against targets in the Damascus area early on 22 April and that its air defences intercepted most of the incoming weapons, although it said four soldiers were wounded and some material losses were suffered.

US Central Command commander General Frank McKenzie said the incident reflected the incompetence of Syrian air defences. “They were responding to Israeli strikes on targets in Syria,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee on 22 April. “They fired their missiles, the missiles went ballistic, literally, and followed a parabolic trajectory to Israel. I do not believe it was an intentional attack.

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