Moscow blames Israel for Syria’s downing of Russian plane
LONDON – Russia blamed Israel on Tuesday for the loss of a military jet to Syrian fire, which killed all 15 servicemen on board, and threatened a response.
Israeli pilots carrying out attacks on Syrian targets “used the Russian plane as a cover, exposing it to fire from Syrian air defences,” Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in televised remarks.
An Israeli air force’s F-16 launched an attack on targets near Syria’s Latakia on Monday around 10pm (1900 GMT) when a Russian Il-20 was landing, he said.
“The Il-20, which has a much bigger reflective surface than the F-16, was struck down by an S-200 rocket,” he said.
“As a result of irresponsible actions of Israeli military, 15 Russian servicemen have died.”
“We consider these provocative actions by Israel as hostile,” he said, adding that “we reserve our right for a proper response.”
Konashenkov said Israel notified Russian command about its plan to bomb targets in Syria’s Latakia province only one minute in advance which “did not allow for the Russian plane to be moved to a safe zone.”
A search and rescue operation for the remains of the Russian plane was ongoing.
Earlier, the Russian defence ministry had said the turbo-prop plane vanished from radar screens over Syria at the same time as Israeli and French forces were launching strikes on targets in Syria.
A US official said Washington believed the aircraft was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Syrian government forces.
Around the time the plane disappeared, the Syrian coastal city of Latakia came under attack from “enemy missiles”, and missile defence batteries responded, Syrian state media reported.
France denied any involvement in the plane’s disappearance. Israel’s military, contacted before Russia alleged Israel was to blame, declined to comment.
(Arab Weekly and news agencies)