Airbus A320 Almost Shot Down Over Syria – Makes Emergency Landing

An Airbus A320 with 172 civilian passengers on board has been forced to make an emergency landing due to Israeli airstrikes in Syria. The plane, operated by Syrian Cham Wings, flew into the path of retaliatory fire by Syrian air defenses. It made a safe landing at Khmeimim airbase near to Damascus.

Cham Wings
A Cham Wings A320 was almost shot down. Photo: Getty

What happened?

Russia has claimed that a commercial aircraft has been forced into an emergency landing after Israel launched airstrikes on Syria. According to Haaretz, just after 2am on Thursday, four Israeli F-16 fighters launched eight air to ground missiles from outside of Syrian airspace, targeting suburbs of Damascus.

Retaliatory fire from Syrian air defenses came heart-stoppingly close to shooting down the A320 aircraft, which the Guardian reports had 172 passengers on board. The aircraft was diverted to Khmeimim airbase rather than continuing to its planned destination of Damascus, where it made a safe emergency landing.

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Cham Wings
The aircraft made a safe emergency landing at a nearby military airbase. Photo: Flight Radar 24

While Russian defense spokespeople have not named the airline, data from Flight Radar suggests it was a Syrian Cham Wings plane. The flight was operating the short hop between Najaf (NJF) and Damascus (DAM) before it was diverted at the last minute.

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The Israeli military has been accused of using civilian aircraft as a ‘shield’ by Russia’s defense ministry. Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told MEHR that,

“Israeli General Staff’s military operations in the air using passenger jets for cover or block of response fire by Syrian missile systems is becoming a typical trait of Israeli Air Force.”

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Did Israel use the aircraft as a shield?

Russia argues that Israel is well briefed on civilian aircraft activity around the region, and in particular around Damascus. Konashenkov is reported by RT to have said,

“Tel Aviv is perfectly aware of civilian flight routes and air activity around Damascus, day and night, and such reckless missions prove that Israeli strategists could not care less about possible civilian casualties.”

Israel has been criticized for putting commercial flights at risk in the past. In 2018, Moscow accused it of jeopardizing the safety of two passenger flights which were landing at Beirut and Damascus airports, again running worryingly close to airstrikes from Israeli forces. Six F-16s flew in just as the two aircraft were coming into land, but Syria held back on deployment of surface to air missiles “to prevent a tragedy”.

IDF F-16
The IDF uses F-16 aircraft to perform airstrikes on Syria. Photo: Israel Defence Force via Wikimedia

Also in 2018, Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian military aircraft, killing 15 people on board. Syria claims that Israel was using the Russian surveillance plane as ‘cover’ for its F-16s. In all cases, Israel has firmly denied any responsibility, and it is unlikely to offer up any apology for yesterday’s incident either.

ATC applauded for quick actions

The Russian defense ministry has praised the quick actions of air traffic control in Damascus for getting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Konashenkov said,

“Only thanks to prompt actions of dispatchers at Damascus airport and effective work of the automated system of monitoring air traffic, the Airbus-320 was escorted from the danger zone and assisted in successfully landing at an aerodrome at the Russian airbase Hmeymim.”

Cham Wings
Headquartered in Damascus, Cham Wings operates four A320 aircraft. Photo: Cham Wings

This latest event comes less than a month after a Ukrainian passenger jet was accidentally shot down by Iranian forces, killing all on board. Syrian airspace has only been properly open for commercial aviation for a year, with airlines like Qatar making a comeback as the state of the civil war seemed to have abated.

But, perhaps this incident will change that, again.

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Martin

Joanna, this article is walking into a middle east landmine field. There are no winners, only loosers….. Conjecture has no place in this article, as you set yourself up for a serous flaming.

Simple facts: Israel and Syria had another spat (and there have been plenty of them). Syria was injudicious with its’ response.

Mark Thompson

Martin. The words is spelled losers not loosers. Loosers are women who are loose with their morality and I don’t think this applies to our favorite aviation correspondent.
And whether Syria was or was not injudicious with their response is the same type of conjecture you accuse Martin of. Look up the word hypocrisy in the dictionary.

Martin

Mark, it is a very long bow to accuse me of suggesting that Joanna has poor morality….

The middle east is all lose – lose. Syria almost shot down a commercial airliner: FACT, NOT CONJECTURE.

With the greatest of respect Mark, it is not hypocrisy to suggest that any country that almost shoots down a commercial airliner is injudicious with its use of its military hardware: It is a FACT!!! For you to assert that Syria showed good judgement almost downing the A320 is beyond absurd.

Mark Thompson

Where to begin? First, I was not suggesting anything about Joanna – from what I know she seems like a respectable reporter. I was merely cautioning you that the term you used – looser – refers to loose women. I think you meant to use the word loser. I disagree with you in your assertion that the determination of whether someone is or is not injudicious is a fact. It is clearly opinion even if you capitalize all the letters in the word fact and use three exclamation points. You need to italicize the letters and use five exclamation points… Read more »

William

Israel uses civilian airliners as human shields. By their deeds you shall know them. If true, and I belive the Russian defence minister, then are true to form in respect for the life of the rest of the world.

Gerry S

Syria ought to get the of Iran's presence on its soil. As long as Iran (seeking the destruction of Israel) remains commited to providing weapons to its proxies so that they can attack Israel, this situation will continue. Let us lay blame where blame lies. If Syria wants all attacks by Israel to stop, then the solution is obvious. Stop Iran from providing weapons to folks in Syria. Reclaim your sovereignity and control your borders…………. Israel may be utilizing air traffic to avoid ground fire. It is a military tactic that reduces the chances of anti-aircraft return fire. Is it… Read more »

Gerry S

……….spellcheck has gone crazy again. Syria ought to get OUT of…….. And SOVEREIGNTY….

Colm

Israel does not need to use anyone or anything as a shield ……. If you take the word of the Russians that pretty much says all you need to know…..

kek

Israel needed lots of shields in the second war in Lebanon.

Patrick

We’re wondering when these wars will cease to end, now some have made it personal with civilian air crafts being targeted / falling as victims of circumstance, though proud with the F-16 fighter jets escorting the civilian plane out of harm’s way & safely assisting the plane to land many thanks to the Russian forces for that bravery.

Paul

F16 Fighter jets escorting civilian airliner ?
As for Russian bravery, sorry here in Australia we still remember the poor souls on MH 17

Dave

So It did not make an emergency landing due to Israeli airstrikes in Syria, It made an emergency landing due to retaliatory fire by Syrian air defenses.

Alex

Actually, the word “retaliatory” is redundant. The aircraft made an emergency landing because the Syrians didn’t care where they fired anti aircraft missiles. The Israelis did not endanger the plane, the Syrians did. War is about winning . Seems the Israeli airforce plays the game better than the Syrians, even with Russian and Iranian support they have.

syrianaviaton1

The A320 couldn't land in Damascus as the air defense system was activated due to Israeli fighter jets attacking the capital of Syria.

Gerry S

Most plausible explanation for diversion I have heard yet.