Hawzah News Agency (Latakia , Syria) – The plane vanished from radar screens over Syria’s Latakia Province late Monday while Israeli and French forces were launching strikes against the Arab country.
Fifteen Russian military personnel were killed as the aircraft was coming to land at the Hmeymim air base in Latakia, which is run by Russian forces.
“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” it said, adding Israel had warned Russia of an impending airstrike on Latakia only one minute beforehand.
Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, “We reserve the right to take commensurate measures in response.”
Konashenkov described the Israeli military’s actions as “hostile” and “an act of provocation,” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
Shedding further light on the incident, Syrian state media said that Latakia’s capital of the same name came under attack from “enemy missiles” at around the time when the plane disappeared, forcing Syrian air defenses to respond.
France has, meanwhile, denied any involvement in the incident.
‘The blame lies squarely on Israel’
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke to Israeli minister for military affairs Avigdor Lieberman, on the phone about the incident.
“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Moscow has been summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry in connection with the incident, the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, announced on social media.
The Kremlin also said it was studying the situation and would have more to say later.
Israel carries out regular reconnaissance and military operationsagainst Syrian soil.
The regime is wary about Syria’s advances against militants, especially those in the Arab country’s south near the Golan Heights, which Tel Aviv has been occupying since 1967.
Earlier this month, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said the regime has taken military action within Syria more than 200 times in the last two years.