Russian Federation threatens Israel after plane downed in Syria

"The prime minister, in the name of the State of Israel, conveyed sorrow over the deaths of the Russian soldiers and said that the responsibility for downing the plane falls on Syria", reads a statement from Netanyahu's bureau.

A political crisis erupted between Israel and Russia on the eve of Yom Kippur after a Russian Ilyushin IL-20 aircraft was downed by a Syrian S-200 missile which was supposed to hit an Israeli F-16 fighter jet flying close to the Russian plane.

Syrian anti-aircraft artillery reportedly responded to a number of Israeli missiles that were launched towards the coastal city of Latakia when it accidentally shot the Russian maritime patrol aircraft, according to a U.S. military official cited in the report.

The Kremlin is attempting to tamp down tensions following the downing of a Russian Ilyushin Il-20M Coot-A intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli raid on Assad regime forces.

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

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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has taken a less firm stance on the incident, calling it a "tragic chain of circumstance" and saying that an investigation would be conducted into the matter. "And these will be steps that everyone will notice", Putin said. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the Russian military, according to RIA-Novosti.

It blamed Israeli air forces for pushing the aircraft into the firing line of Syrian government missiles.

The Israeli government is concerned by what it calls Iran's "military entrenchment" in Syria, as well as shipments of Iranian weapons to the Hezbollah.

Israel's military, which was contacted before Russian Federation alleged the country was to blame, has declined to comment.

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".

According to a Syrian news agency report on Monday night, the Syrian air defense system intercepted hostile missiles coming from the sea into Lattakia city and confronted a number of them before reaching their targets.

Russian state news agency TASS reported that a Russian IL-20 military aircraft disappeared over the Mediterranean.

When two or three allies coordinate forces, as Russian Federation has with Syria and Iran, they use communications protocols to identify friendly aircraft in the air. According to Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, four Israeli F-16s bombed the city of Lattakia on the evening of September 17, without warning Moscow, "creating a unsafe situation for surface ships and aircraft in the area". In some cases, those countries are backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

Officials did not immediately say if the plane was shot down.

Despite the presence of the hotline, created to prevent accidental exchanges of fire between forces allied with opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, diplomats and military experts have warned that the risk of inadvertent strikes is high.

  • Jon Douglas