Israel blamed for shooting down of military plane

Fifteen servicemen dead as Russian plane is shot down in Syrian airspace

A Russian military Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft, like the one pictured, has been shot down in Syrian airspace. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

A Russian military plane has been shot down over Syrian skies with Moscow blaming Israel over the deadly incident.

All fifteen servicemen onboard died on Monday after Syrian air defence systems shot the plane down about 23.00 local time, the BBC reports.

However, Russia’s defence ministry said Israeli jets had put the military plane into the path of the missiles by failing to give Moscow enough warning of an incoming strike on Syrian targets.

The plane shoot down is the latest in an ongoing saga involving Syria, its neighbours and its backers in the Syrian Civil War.

The details of the incident are still murky and Russia’s account remains to be unverified.

The downing reportedly occurred about 35 kilometres from the Syrian coast as the Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft was returning to Russia’s Hmeimim airbase near the north-western city of Latakia.

According to state media agency Tass, the plane “disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province”.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that the plane was undertaking reconnaissance activity in the Idlib de-escalation zone before the crash. He claimed the Israeli jets delivered strikes on Syria and used the Russian plane as “cover”.

“The Israeli side didn’t issue a notification or, to be more precise, they warned us a minute before conducting the strike,” he said. “They told us they were about to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, and they did it.”

“We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us.”

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) expressed “sorrow” over the deaths, but stated on Twitter that it was not to blame for the incident.

The statement said IDF fighter jets were targeting a facility of the Syrian Armed Forces from which systems to manufacture weapons were about to be “transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

“Israel holds the [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident,” the post read.

A search-and-rescue operation to locate the aircraft is now under way.

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