Moscow is planning to deploy 2,000 military personnel to Syria, as clashes between opposition armed groups and the Syrian army intensified. The force will include fighter aircraft crews, engineers and troops to secure the facility, as reported by Financial Times on Monday. The move comes after the Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to discuss coordination mechanisms in Syria, to prevent Israeli and Russian troops from accidentally exchanging fire. However, both leaders differ in their assessment of the situation. While Netanyahu believes that Iran and Syria fuel terrorism, Putin has made clear that his government supports Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. “Our main goal is to defend the Syrian state,” the Russian head of state said after the meeting. The decision of deploying military personnel was regarded by many analysts as a response to the shelling of the Russian Embassy in Damascus on Sunday. Despite it caused no casualties, it sparked concerns in Moscow.
According to Russian authorities, the shell was fired from Jobar which is held by rebel forces not aligned to the Islamic State group. The Foreign Ministry urged the international community to act and criticized “foreign sponsors” which are fueling violence in the country. “We expect a clear position with regard to this terrorist act from all members of the international community, including regional players,” the ministry said. The shelling of the diplomatic offices comes as clashes are nearing the capital Damascus since last week.
On Wednesday, Jaish al-Islam, a jihadist opposition militia, also began an assault on Adra prison, Syria's largest and where many opposition leaders have been held. The Syrian government has been fighting against armed opposition groups, including the Islamic State group, following massive protests against the government of Bashar al-Assad by Syrians during the 2011 Arab Spring revolt.