An A320 Was “Nearly” Shot Down Over Syria

Filed Under: Other Airlines

On January 8, 2020, a Ukraine International Airlines 737-800 was shot down after takeoff from Tehran, killing the 176 people onboard. Iran initially denied that they did this, claiming that the plane had a catastrophic engine failure, but very quickly changed their tune.

Well, reports now suggest that another commercial plane was “almost” shot down on approach to Damascus, Syria, early yesterday morning.

Cham Wings Airlines A320 diverts due to missiles

As reported by The Washington Post, this incident involves Cham Wings Airlines, a private Syrian airline, which was operating flight 514 from Najaf to Damascus very early Thursday morning.

The flight was operated by a 27 year old Airbus A320 with registration code YK-BAB. Note that most of the information we have about the incident comes from a Russian Defense Military spokesperson. I’ll share what he says, though of course you can draw your own conclusions, and for that matter probably shouldn’t take everything he says at face value.

According to the source, Israeli fighter jets had fired eight missiles at targets near Damascus early Thursday morning, and in response Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missile defense systems.

The Airbus A320 was almost caught in the middle of this. Russia is accusing the Israeli air force of using the A320 as a shield from Syrian air defenses.

As the source describes it, using civilian aircraft to deter Syrian forces from responding to attacks was “becoming a signature feature of the Israeli air force,” and he said that “unfortunately, such operations of Israeli strategists do not care in the slightest about the lives of hundreds of absolutely innocent civilians.”

After the situation became apparent, the Cham Wings Airlines flight diverted to the Russia-controlled Hmeimim Air Base nearby.

According to the source:

“It was purely thanks to the prompt actions of air traffic controllers at Damascus airport and the effective operation of the automated air traffic control system that the Airbus 320 passenger plane was promptly rerouted from the Syrian air defense area of engagement and safely landed at the nearest reserve airfield — the Russian air base Hmeimim.”

The A320 has since returned to service, and has already operated several more flights.

Bottom line

Obviously this is inherently political, and any discussion about Israel and Syria politics is bound to get a big reaction. That’s not the point of this post, though — I’m writing about this because an A320 diverted to an air base to avoid being hit by missiles, and that’s pretty significant.

Whether Israel knew of the risk is something we don’t know for sure, as the only “on the record” comments I’ve seen with this story have come from a Russia Defense Military spokesperson. Israeli representatives have refused to comment, one way or another.

Fortunately the plane landed safely…

  1. It’s Israel’s fault that Iran is using Damascus airport in Syria as a strategic weapon storage… like there is no deserts etc. that can and should be used for that purpose like every other country does, In other words using humans as shields, then blame Israel if the shields are hurt…

  2. Shielding military ops behind civilian flights is SOP in the region, by all sides. Often with the full knowledge and compliance of the civilian operator (although probably not in this case given who the parties involved were). This isn’t the first time something like this has happened and also won’t be the last.

    Sanaa/Damascus/Mogadishu FIRs aren’t for the faint of heart.

  3. C’mon, is there any airspace that does not have civilian planes crossing it during surgical quick strike military operations.

  4. You guys seem to be commenting as if Syria’s story was the truth. A suggestion: do not believe anything that the Assad regime tells you. They are not to be trusted.

  5. @stogieguy7

    Agreed, but I would also not trust Israel or Russia to tell the truth about anything like this either

  6. The posted information is incomplete. based on what I understand of the information, Israel did not endanger the civilian aircraft, it was the Syrian anti aircraft forces that did.

  7. Transporting war matériel near civilian aircraft to deter attacks violates customary international law rules prohibiting the use of human shields. Using civilian aircraft to deter counterattacks violates the same rules. As a rule, all sides are committing war crimes in the region…

  8. Not certain why you are even covering this story.Do you anticipate any of your readers may be interested in visiting Syria any time soon?
    Next time politics comes into this site I will be finished with it.

  9. Interesting tidbit from avherald:

    “The aircraft remained on the ground in Latakia for about 100 minutes, then flew to Damascus as flight WN-622 (typo in the ICAO code for the transponder, SWA-622/WN-622 entered instead of SAW-622/6Q-622) and continued schedule.”

    So it looks like Southwest operated a one-time domestic flight in Syria

  10. Very glad you are covering this story. It is quite relevant to this blog despite what certain snowflakes like Steven are saying. I guess he likes burying his head in the sand and pretending that nothing like this is really happening

  11. Israel – perhaps the country most constrained and victimized by the use of human shields in the world – being condemned for “hiding” behind an A320 by Syria is pretty rich.

    More likely is Israeli F35’s evaded Russian detection and to avoid hurting the sales of their S-400 system – the only thing they’re producing that anyone actually wants to buy – they come up with this nonsense.

  12. The Russians seem angry with the Israelis, and are releasing this to get at them. How true this is is hard to tell.
    In a previous incident when Syrian air defenses shit down a Russian spy plane (with 20 or so killed) during an Israeli attack the Russian story was that Israeli F-15s hid behind a slow-moving Il-20, which seems nonsensical.

  13. While I can’t say I trust anything announced by Russia, particularly with regards to Syria, it does fit Israel’s MO. They’ve been caught using civilian shields many times during time of war – this isn’t out of character.

  14. It’s interesting that so many people seem to think it’s fine to shoot through civilian shields because “they shouldn’t be there in the first place”. (Though I’d imagine most of them would justify anything Israel does and wouldn’t believe that if it was Israeli citizens in the shield)

    If you’re being attacked through a civilian shield you could justify attacking it in self defence (collateral damage is unfortunate but largely unavoidable during war). Attacking through it (or using it yourself) when there isn’t an imminent threat seems pretty unjustifiable to me?

  15. My wife and I had plans to fly from Boston to Dubai on January 8th (and on to Bali 2 days later) but when we heard Iran was shooting misses at US air bases the day before, I cancelled the routing and flew to Bali through HKG instead. When we heard the Ukraine flight was shot down, and now this, makes us very glad we weren’t in the airspace then.

  16. What Russian actions/statements made you all so skeptical about the Russian version of events? Because CNN says they are not to be trusted?

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