Russia expresses 'serious concern' to Israeli ambassador over Syria air strikes

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(Reuters) - Russia expressed "serious concern" on Wednesday to Israel's ambassador about air strikes that shut down Syria's Damascus International Airport last week, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Syria has been a staunch ally of Moscow since Russia launched a military campaign in 2015 that helped to turn the tide in a civil war in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria halted flights to and from the airport until further notice following the Israeli strikes.

"Serious concern was again expressed over the June 10 Israeli air force attack on the civilian airport of Damascus, which damaged the runway, navigation equipment and buildings, and disrupted international civilian air traffic," the ministry said after Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov met Israeli Ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi in Moscow.

"The ambassador was told that the justification received from the Israeli side regarding the strike ... was unconvincing and that Moscow expected additional clarification."

Israel, whose main ally is the United States, on Feb. 26 condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as "a serious violation of international order" and has since remained largely muted on Moscow's actions.

For several years, Israel has been attacking what it has described as Iranian-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, have deployed to support Assad.

Following the 2015 Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war, Israel set up a "deconfliction mechanism" with the big power to prevent the two nations clashing inadvertently during Israeli strikes.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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