Likely Grim Satisfaction that the Israelis Got a Bloody Nose Courtesy of their Clients
Even if Russia is not ready to take any rash actions or shoot down Israeli and NATO aircraft that do not directly threaten Russian units, the Syrians and Iranians are intensifying their efforts to ensure Israel, and later on the USA pay a price for aggression in Syria. This in turn will force Washington and most likely Tel Aviv to bolster their suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) capabilities in the Levant, and Israel to strike back hard in order to save face.
Indeed within hours the IAF claimed to have hit at least four Syrian air defense batteries and multiple 'Iranian targets' inside Syria, after alleging that Iranian agents launched the drone that violated Israeli air space from the T4 air base near Palmyra. Interestingly enough T4 is where 'Wagner' Russian military contractors and spetsnaz units were said to be active months ago, if not more recently.
in Moscow, the most likely reaction at this hour to the news at the Kremlin and Foreign/Defense Ministries is grim satisfaction. The emphasis in CNN's reporting on Russian mercenaries of the alleged private security contractor Wagner in the American air and artillery strikes outside Deir Ez Zor did not go unnoticed, despite Secretary of Defense James Mattis distancing the DoD from reports of any killed or wounded Russian contractors on Friday. Mattis also said in a press conference that he had no idea why the pro-Syrian government forces attacked the SDF unit accompanied by American special forces. Most likely though, Mattis is well aware that the mostly Kurdish SDF seized Deir Ez Zor province oil fields from local tribes that, with ISIS removed, wish to profitably manage the local hydrocarbons in partnership with Damascus.
Mad Dog Mattis Plays Dumb Regarding U.S. Intentions in Occupying the Euphrates Valley
The timing of the vaunted IAF losing one of its aircraft is interesting: Russian and relocated Syrian air defenses reportedly stood down to allow the Turkish Air Force to resume strikes around the Kurdish enclave of Afrin. However, there were reports from the battlefields outside the city that the YPG Kurdish defenders were using Iranian made rockets and Toophan (TOW knockoff) anti-tank missiles against the Turks and their Syrian jihadist allies.
Turks Aim to Carve Out Neo-Ottoman Emp...Er, Safe Zones in Syria's Idlib Province
Nonetheless, even as the Turkish advance seemed bogged down around Afrin, with the jihadis suffering significant casualties and the TAF admitting to 17 soldiers killed in action since the start of the 'Operation Olive Branch', the Turks sent a large convoy to the town of Saraqeb. The intent appears to stop the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) from taking the crossroads town, which would open up an advance through thinly held jihadi lines into Idlib province. The Turks are also seeking negotiating leverage with the Russians, to establish an expanded 'deescalation zone' (of occupation) in the area that their troops will control.
Given that Turkish forces have already been hit with IEDs and faced artillery fire from pro-Damascus and Iranian-backed forces in the area, it remains to be seen if the Turks will suffer more casualties and back off, or reinforce more al-Qaeda friendly outposts in Idlib province. The SAA appears intent on cleaning up the last remnants of ISIS in northern Hama before pressing on to potentially bypass if not target any Turkish Army block posts.