Russia has accused Israel of being indirectly at fault for the downing of a Russian military plane by the Syrian regime after Damascus mistook the aircraft for an Israeli jet.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, with 15 Russian service personnel on board, was mistakenly brought down last night by anti-aircraft batteries of Moscow’s ally. The Syrian air force had simultaneously been responding to Israeli fighter jets that were mounting air attacks on targets in the coastal region of Latakia.
“We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile,” Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian state television this morning. “As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished.”
Missiles, believed to have been from Israel, were fired from the sea at several locations in Latakia last night but were intercepted by air defences. According to the ministry, the Israeli F-16 jets carrying out the strikes used the Russian plane as a cover to allow them to approach their targets on the ground without being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
The Russian Defence Ministry said that Israel only informed them of a planned operation one minute beforehand, breaking the protocol previously in place as it was not enough time to get the plane to safety. Konashenkov added that Russia reserved the right to take appropriate measures after Israel’s hostile actions.
When asked for comment about Monday’s attack, an Israeli military spokeswoman said Israel did not comment on foreign reports. According to Syrian state news agency SANA, 10 people were injured in the attack on Syrian targets, eight of whom were shortly discharged after being admitted to a nearby hospital.
Israel has attacked Syria with increasing frequency in the past few weeks. On Saturday, state media reported that Syrian air defences downed several missiles that Israel fired near Damascus airport. Witnesses at a major trade fair in the capital Damascus said they saw flares shooting up into the night sky.
Israel is believed to have been carrying out air strikes in Syria in 2013 against suspected arms transfers and deployments by Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shia Hezbollah militia. Tel Aviv has never taken responsibility for the attacks.
These operations have until now largely been ignored by Russia, Damascus’ big-power backer, and coordinated with other powers conducting their own military operations in Syria. The latest incident indicates that Israel acted largely without warning Moscow, a notable change compared to their previous arrangement.