Russian Federation blames Israel for shootdown of military jet over Syria

Geneva Stokes
September 19, 2018

"With this agreement we have precluded experiencing a large humanitarian crisis in Idlib", Erdogan told reporters at the news conference with Putin.

This deal aims to both push the rebels further back toward the Turkish border, and to preclude a military confrontation with Turkey itself, as they've been reinforcing their own positions in Idlib in recent days.

"By Oct. 10, at the suggestion of the Turkish president, (we agreed) on the withdrawal from that zone of the heavy weapons, tanks, rockets systems and mortars of all opposition groups", Putin said, with Erdogan standing alongside him.

The comments on September 18 came as Russian officials said that Syrian antiaircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time. "As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished".

Hmeimim is Russia's main base for air strikes on rebel groups in Syria - strikes that have enabled President Assad's forces to recover much lost ground since 2015.

Russian Federation has frequently boasted about its air defences in Syria and their ability to repel attacks from even top-of-the-line U.S. stealth jets. Tel Aviv has never taken responsibility for the attacks. Israel has also acknowledged attacking Iranian targets some 200 times.

President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a "very sad thing" and "not a good situation".

Israel expressed "sorrow" for the Russian deaths, but insisted the Russian plane had been felled by "extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (surface-to-air missile) fire".

Russian state television quoted a Defense Ministry statement as saying that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, that Israel is "fully to blame" for the deaths.

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Israel's Foreign Ministry said its deputy ambassador in Moscow had been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry but gave no details of what was discussed.

At a monthly U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria, U.S. adviser on Syria, James Jeffrey, expressed "sorrow to our council partners Russian Federation for the tragic loss of life".

It "reminds us of the need to find permanent, peaceful, and political resolutions to the many overlapping conflicts in the region and the danger of tragic miscalculation in Syria's crowded theater of operations".

The fate of the 14 people on board the missing plane is unknown, and a rescue operation has been organized out of the Hmeymim base, the ministry said.

"Hiding behind the Russian aircraft, the Israeli pilots put it in the line of fire of Syrian anti-aircraft systems". Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. Nevertheless, they deliberately staged this provocation, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Maj. "This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership".

The US officials speaking to CNN confirmed that it was Israel who carried out the missile strikes, and identified the target as "a facility that Iran was using to house sensitive military equipment that could be assembled into weapons, and then transferred to Lebanese Hezbollah".

The Russian Ilyushin plane dropped off the radar over the Mediterranean moments after Turkey and Russia announced a deal that offered millions of people reprieve from a threatened military assault in northern Syria's Idlib province.

Israel has refrained from taking sides in the Syrian civil war.

Hotlines are in place for those countries to share operational information on their deployments, but diplomats and military planners say there is still a high risk of one state inadvertently striking another country's forces.

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