Russia summons Israel's ambassador over downed military plane

15 people were killed when the Russian plane was brought down, says defense ministry

Reuters September 18, 2018
Russia blamed Israel on September 18, 2018 for the loss of a military IL-20M jet to Syrian fire, which killed all 15 servicemen on board, and threatened a response. Israeli pilots carrying out attacks on Syrian targets. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW: Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday it had summoned Israel’s ambassador in Moscow over the shooting down of a Russian military plane near Syria.

The aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft systems but Moscow said Israeli air force jets flying in the same area had put the Russian plane in the line of fire. Israel’s government has not yet commented.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on social media that the Israeli ambassador had been called into her ministry in connection with what had happened near Syria.

Russia accused Israel of a hostile provocation and threatened retaliation after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing a Russian military plane to be shot down near Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

Russia’s defense ministry, in a statement reported by Russian news agencies, said the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft was brought down by anti-aircraft batteries of Moscow’s ally, Syria, in a friendly fire incident.

But the ministry said it held Israel responsible because, at the time of the incident, Israeli fighter jets were mounting air attacks on Syria targets and had only given Moscow one minute’s warning, not enough time for the Russian plane to get to safety.

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The defense ministry said 15 people were killed when the Russian plane was brought down as it came in to land at the Hmeymim air base in western Syria, which is controlled by Russian forces.

“As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished. This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov as saying.

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“We reserve the right to take commensurate measures in response,” Konashenkov was quoted as saying.

Konashenkov described the Israeli military’s actions as hostile and an act of provocation, Interfax reported.

Earlier, the Russian defense 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.

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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 defense 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.

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