Russia prohibits its airlines from flying over Syria

Moscow, Apr 30 (EFE).- Russia announced the prohibition of flights by its civilian airlines over Syrian territory after ground-to-air missiles were fired at a Russian passenger jet flying over the strife-torn Arab nation.

"With the aim of guaranteeing the safety of the passengers and crew of its civilian aircraft ... Rosaviatsia has issued a directive regarding the prohibition of the use of the air space of the Syrian Arab Republic," Russia civil aviation agency said.

A Rosaviatsia spokesman told the official RIA-Novosti news agency that the directive is binding on all Russian airlines.

Rosaviatsia already had recommended in late February that Russian airlines refrain from using Syrian air space, given that the country has been mired in civil war for more than two years.

Several companies followed the recommendation, but others ignored it and continued operating flights between the Egyptian coast and Russian territory by flying over Syria.

An A-320 jet belonging to Russia's NordWind Airlines with 159 passengers on board was attacked with two ground-to-air missiles Monday as it was flying over Syrian territory en route to Russia after taking off from the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

The plane's pilot took evasive action, avoiding any injuries or damage to the aircraft.

The missiles exploded less than 1,000 meters (yards) from the aircraft, according to a source with the Russian security forces.

In August 2012 Russia's Aeroflot airline suspended flights to Damascus because of ongoing combat between the Syrian army and the rebels who want to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime.