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Shooting down of Russian plane provokes a war of words

By Sheetal Sukhija, Illinois State News
19 Sep 2018, 03:23 GMT+10

MOSCOW, Russia - After accusing Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military plane near Syria, the Russian President has now blamed the incident on a "chain of tragic chance circumstances."

The Russian military plane was shot down near Syria's seacoast, which killed 15 Russian aircrew.

On Tuesday, Russia's Tass news agency said that the Ilyushin Il-20 reconnaissance plane had "disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province."

According to the agency's report, the military plane was downed about 35km (22 miles) from the Syrian coast while it was returning to Russia's Hmeimim airbase near Latakia.

 

Russia accuses Israel

In response to the downing of the plane, Russia issued a statement saying Israel's "irresponsible actions" were to blame.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said that the aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft systems and accused Israel of indirectly causing the incident.

It added that Israeli jets nearby had put the Russian plane in the path of danger.

Russia further added that it was given less than a minute's warning ahead of the strikes, which was not enough time to get the military surveillance plane out of the way.

Further, the country's Defence Ministry threatened to retaliate over what it called a hostile act.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian state television, "We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile. As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished. The Israeli planes deliberately created a dangerous situation for surface ships and aircraft in the area."

According to the ministry body fragments, personal belongings and the plane's debris had been found by search ships in the Mediterranean.

Subsequently, reports noted that the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held a telephonic conversation with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman and told him that the blame "fully rests with Israel."

Shoigu further added that Russia "reserves the right to take further steps in response."

It was also reported that Russia had summoned the Israeli deputy ambassador to its foreign ministry.

 

Israel accuses Syria

Responding to Russia's accusations, Israel blamed the Syrian government and its allies Iran and Hezbollah.

While expressing sorrow at the deaths, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) blamed the Syrian government and its allies Iran and Hezbollah in its official statement.

The IDF statement said that the initial Israeli inquiry into the incident found “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian surface-to-air anti-aircraft fire “caused the Russian plane to be hit and downed."

It said, "Israel expresses sorrow for the deaths of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident."

The statement added, “The Syrian anti-air batteries fired indiscriminately and from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air."

Israel further argued that by the time the Russian plane was struck, the Israeli jets were already back in their own airspace. 

It added that the Russian plane was “not within the area of the operation” carried out by the Israeli jets.

Subsequently, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a telephonic conversations with the Russian President and expressed regret at the loss of life.

Netanyahu reportedly offered to provide "all necessary information" in the investigation of the incident.

However, Netanyahu is said to have clarified that Israel would continue to take action against Iran in Syria, days after the Israeli military said that it had hit over 200 Iranian targets in Syria over the past 18 months.

 

Putin attempts to defuse tensions

Later in the day, striking a more conciliatory tone, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said that

Putin said that Russia would need to look into the exact details of the case and told reporters, “I looks most likely in this case that it was a chain of tragic chance events, because an Israeli aircraft did not shoot down our aircraft. But, without any doubt we need to seriously get to the bottom of what happened."

In an attempt to further calm the situation, Putin said that the Russian response would be to secure the safety of its personnel.

The Russian President said that Moscow’s response would aim at securing the safety of Russian military personnel in Syria.

He said, “As for retaliatory measures, they will be aimed first and foremost at further ensuring the safety of our military personnel and facilities in Syria. And these will be steps that everyone will notice."

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