Putin: Syrian Downing of Russian Jet Was 'Tragic, Accidental'

Putin: Syrian Downing of Russian Jet Was 'Tragic, Accidental'

The ministry said a missile from Syria's S-200 air defense system shot down the Il-20 surveillance plane with Russian servicemen on Monday by mistake because an Israeli airstrike took place at the same time.

The defense ministry says the turbo-prop Il-20 "Coot" used for electronic reconnaissance disappeared from radar near the coastal city of Latakia on Tuesday just as Israeli F-16s were launching airstrikes on targets in the area.

Earlier, an unnamed USA official told Reuters that Washington believed the aircraft, an Il-20 turbo-prop plane used for electronic reconnaissance, was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Moscow's ally, the Syrian government.

It accused the Israelis of using the Russian plane as a cover to avoid Syrian air defense systems.

Russia's TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying the plane was about 20 miles off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean Sea when it went down.

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. Israeli military officials have previously praised its effectiveness.

The Russians and Israelis have long had an understanding on Syria that allowed Israel to continue strikes in the country without Russian interference; the two countries also deconflict their operations through a communications hotline.

USA intelligence and the military also had no oversight of the Israeli attacks or forewarning from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of the intention to hit targets in northwestern Syria, said U.S.

"This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership".

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In response, in a very rare turn of events, Israel acknowledged the strike, expressed sorrow over the loss of Russian lives, made plain that it blamed Syria for the downing of the Russian plane, and gave details of what had played out.

Israel's ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry over the incident, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Amos Yadlin, Director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, said on Twitter the downing of the Russian plane could "limit the bid to stop Iran's entrenchment in Syria and the transfers of advanced weapons to Hezbollah". "As a result of countermeasures to the Israeli attack, the Syrian air defense troops brought down the Ilyushin-20".

It sees Iran's military presence in Syria as a threat, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Putin by phone on Tuesday his forces would keep acting against it.

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

The deal unveiled on Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad's most powerful ally, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will create a demilitarized zone from which "radical" rebels must withdraw by the middle of next month.

On Monday, Putin said the demilitarized zone is to be established by October 15 and be 9 to 12 miles deep to separate Syrian forces and the rebels, with radical groups withdrawn from the area.

The BBC's defence and diplomatic correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says the crisis will nearly certainly blow over as Israel and Russian Federation have a remarkably close relationship and Moscow has until now not interfered with Israeli operations.

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