TEL AVIV – The Syrian government already has received a first shipment of S-300 air defense missiles from Russia and is waiting for more, stated President Bashar al-Assad in a television interview today.

Assad told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station that Syria “has got the first batch of Russian S-300 missiles” and “the rest of the shipment will arrive soon.”

Citing Arab intelligence sources two weeks ago, WND was first to report that S-300 missile batteries had reached Syria.

Israeli security sources said two weeks ago there was no information to support the Arab claim.

Speaking to WND last week, the same Arab intelligence sources who first claimed S-300 batteries were already delivered to Syria now say other advanced Russian anti-aircraft missiles arrived in Syria in the last few days.

The sources said a Russian delivery of 9K720 Iskander missiles reached Syria last week. The system is an older version of the S-300.

Asked about the latest report, Israeli security officials did not immediately comment on the matter.

After Al-Manar texted to reporters excerpts of Assad’s comments today, the Associated Press reported that the Syrian leaders actual comments differed. The AP said Assad was vague on whether the Russian shipment included the S-300 defense system.

He said in the interview that his forces would respond strongly to any future Israeli strike on Syria.

Syria did not respond when Israel struck a suspected shipment of advanced weapons near Damascus earlier this month. But Assad said he will respond next time.

“If we are going to retaliate against Israel, this retaliation should be a strategic response,” he said.

S-300 missile batteries are able to intercept manned aircraft and guided missiles.

Two days ago, Russia confirmed plans to sell the surface-to-air defense missile systems to Assad’s regime.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Syria has been making payments on a 2010 agreement with Russia to purchase four batteries for $900 million, with delivery expected within three months.

The Journal reported the S-300 package included six launchers and 144 operational missiles, each with a range of up to 200 miles.

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