A Swiss research group has published a report that explains why the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has banned U.S. flights through Syria air space.
The Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey research organization released a report Tuesday warning that armed terror groups in Syria possess portable anti-aircraft weapons.
The weapons present a risk to aircraft like Malaysia Airlines Flight #17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, allegedly by pro-Russian separatist rebels.
The Swiss group analyzes the global flow of weapons. It estimated the terrorists have access to several hundred of the anti-aircraft missiles.
Its report focused on launchers and missiles known as “man-portable air defense systems,” or MANPADS, which are dangerous to aircraft upon takeoff and departure, and that fly at lower altitudes.
The weapons could also easily be smuggled to other terrorist organizations, the group noted.
The revelation raises red flags for neighboring Israel, already on alert due to incidents in which Syrian mortar and gunfire have been aimed at its northern region.
The Islamic State — formerly known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) — has been operating in Syria for some time. The group has conquered wide swathes of territory both there and in Iraq, including two border crossings between Iraq and Syria, and one border crossing between Iraq and Jordan.
It is alsos not clear which group has possession of the anti-aircraft weaponry.
The report was released just hours after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had banned all U.S. flights from flying in Syrian air space.
Armed extremists in Syria are “known to be equipped with a variety of anti-aircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft,” the FAA stated in its notice. In previous alerts, the FAA had warned against flying over Syria but had not issued an outright ban.