Israel blames Syria for Russian deaths

The aircraft was returning to a Russian base on the north-western coast of Syria

The aircraft was returning to a Russian base on the north-western coast of Syria

Israel says Syria is to blame for the deaths of 15 Russian aircrew shot down by Syrian forces after Israel launched an air raid on the city of Latakia.

Israel “expressed sorrow” for the deaths but blamed “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

The Il-20 plane was downed over the Mediterranean Sea on Monday evening.

Russia initially blamed “irresponsible” Israeli actions, but President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday it was “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances”.

Russia is supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.

 

In a rare statement detailing its operations over Syria, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said: “Israel expresses sorrow for the deaths of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident.”

The statement also laid blame on Iran and the Lebanese Shia militant group, Hezbollah, two other allies of the Syrian government.

The Israeli government is concerned by what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” in Syria, as well as shipments of Iranian weapons to the Hezbollah.

The IDF said its jets were targeting Syrian military facilities “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon”.

The statement also addressed a Russian allegation that Israeli planes had “used the Russian airplane as a cover”, putting it “in the line of fire coming from Syrian air defence systems”.

The IDF said: “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation… when the Syrian army launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane, (Israeli) jets were already within Israeli airspace.”

 

Russia’s Tass news agency said the Ilyushin Il-20 reconnaissance plane had “disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province”.

The downing was reported to have occurred about 35km (22 miles) from the Syrian coast as the Il-20 aircraft was returning to Russia’s Hmeimim airbase near Latakia.

In an initial statement, Russia said Israel’s “irresponsible actions” were to blame, saying it was given less than a minute’s warning ahead of the strikes, which was not enough time to get the military surveillance plane out of the way. -BBC

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