An Israeli-owned firm that builds all of the longtime U.S. ally’s spy satellites unveiled high-resolution images showing the deployment of Russian nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in Syria on Thursday. The images surfaced shortly before the Kremlin claimed it began reducing its military presence in Syria.
Reuters notes that “Russia has previously failed to deliver on promises to pull back its forces from Syria, adding, “Moscow announced a reduction of its military deployment in the country in March last year, but continued supply runs by land and air before sending significant reinforcements in October.”
Nevertheless, Syrian army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayoub visited the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier deployed to the east Mediterranean to mark the end of its mission.
In remarks reportedly aired on Russian state television Friday, Gen. Ayoub emphasized the importance of Russian military support to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in “the war on terrorism and the need to develop military cooperation” with Russia even after “the victory over terrorism.”
The following day, images captured late last year by an Israeli satellite revealed the deployment of two missile launching vehicles and six nuclear-capable “missile elements” hidden under camouflage nets in and around Russia’s Hmeymim airbase near Latakia in northwestern Syria, reports Defense News, adding that the revelation affirms what Russia hawks and intelligence analysts have known since March 2016.
Defense News notes that the Israeli-built Eros B satellite captured the images of “two Iskander-launching vehicles, each capable of deploying two of the 500-kilometer-range surface-to-surface missiles known to NATO as SS-26” in Russia’s Hmeymim airbase on December 28.
On an unspecified day in late November, the satellite reportedly captured other images showing “six different ‘missile elements’ under camouflage nets.”
The head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, on Friday announced that the Kremlin has begun to draw down its military troops fighting in Syria since September 2015, reports Reuters, noting that the reduction is the result of a fragile ceasefire deal reached between opposition groups and the Syrian government.
“In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, the Russian Defence Ministry is beginning to reduce its armed forces deployment in Syria,” declared Gerasimov. “I want to congratulate the entire crew of the naval aircraft carrier group on the successful completion of their assigned tasks.”
The revelation of the deployment of nuclear-capable Russian missiles by the Israeli satellite and firm comes as the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives affirmed America’s historic support of its ally Israel by overwhelmingly voting in favor of rebuking the United Nations for passing a resolution with the help of President Barack Obama denouncing Israeli settlements.
House lawmakers approved the bipartisan measure by a 342-80 vote. Of the Democrats, 109 joined 233 Republican in voting in favor of the the resolution.