Russia: Syrian missiles shot down Russian aircraft in crossfire

A Russian military aircraft was brought down by a Syrian missile over the Mediterranean Sea, killing all 15 people on board, the Russian defence ministry said.

Moscow blamed Israel for the crash, saying the reconnaissance plane was caught in the crossfire as four Israeli fighter jets attacked targets in northwestern Syria.

“The Israeli pilots were using the Russian aircraft as a shield and pushed it into the line of fire of the Syrian defence,” ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on Tuesday.

Russia said it would make an “appropriate response” to Israel.

The Russian military said the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft was hit 35 km off the Syrian coast as it was returning to its home base nearby. 

An Israeli military spokesperson when asked about both the reported Israeli attack and the Russian plane said: “We don’t comment on foreign reports.”

For several years, Israel and Russia have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria.

Israeli military officials have previously praised its effectiveness.

Around the time the plane disappeared, the Syrian coastal city of Latakia – near the Russian Khmeimim airbase to which the Il-20 was returning – came under attack from “enemy missiles”, and missile defence batteries responded, Syrian state media reported.

The Russian military said Israel did not warn it of its operation over Latakia province until one minute before the strike, which did not give the Russian plane enough time to escape.

Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict to prop up the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2015.

Moscow has previously lost aircraft during its Syria campaign.

In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, triggering a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Moscow.

In 2016, a Russian Ministry of Defence Tu-154, carrying 92 people and also on its way to Khmeimim, crashed shortly after taking off from Sochi airport, killing all on board.

In February this year, Syrian rebels shot down a Sukhoi 25 jet over Idlib province.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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