As per the Russian defence ministry, the Israeli jets forced the Il-20 plane into the conduit of Syrian air defence system on Monday. The Il-20 went off radar around 23:00 local time i.e. (20:00 GMT). Israel is yet to comment on the allegations.
It is quite known about how rarely Israel acknowledges it carrying out strikes on Syria. However, recently an Israeli military official accepted that over the past 18 months, Israel had hit over 200 Iranian targets.
So, what exactly happened?
The details are muddy, and the Russian account of the incident remains to be verified.
The Monday’s incident occurred about 22 miles away from the Syrian coast. It was reported that the Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft was on its way back to the Russian airbase, Hmeymim, located near the north-western city of Latakia.
The Syrian state media reported an attack just before the plane went missing. As per Sana news agency, the military said it had interrupted “enemy missiles coming from the open sea towards the city of Latakia.”
However Israeli military plainly refused to clarify the reports about its plane targeting facilities in the Latakia area on Monday by saying: “We don’t comment on foreign reports.”
Several people were initially held responsible as the plane disappeared, but then on Tuesday, the Russian defence ministry confirmed that the aircraft was inadvertently by Syria.
Several people were initially blamed after the plane disappeared, but on Tuesday the Russian defence ministry said the aircraft was accidentally shot down by Syria.
In its statement, Russia blamed Israel’s “irresponsible actions” citing that it was given less than a minute’s warning before the strikes. Clearly, the time provided was not sufficient to get the military observation plane out of the way.
A defence ministry spokesperson said, “The Israeli planes deliberately created a dangerous situation for surface ships and aircraft in the area.”
The spokesperson alleged Israeli pilots of the Russian airplane in the line of fire coming from Syrian air defence systems and using it (plane) as a cover.
It is not possible to verify any of these claims as the plane was shot down by a Syrian missile, continued the spokesman.
He further articulated, “As a result of the irresponsible actions by the Israeli military, 15 Russian servicemen have died. This is out of line with the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right to take appropriate action in response.”
Purpose of Russian aircraft in Syria
After a request from the President Bashar al-Assad in 2015, Russia began military strikes in Syria. The skirmish has claimed lives of more than 350,000 people till date.
Hmeymim is the Russian main base for air strikes on rebel groups in Syria. It is the courtesy of these strikes that President Assad’s forces recovered the almost lost ground since 2015.
The Russian claims that the air strikes only target the terrorists, but activists have a different story to tell. According to them, the air strikes have mainly hit the civilians and mainstream rebel fighters.
A UK-based monitoring group, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have shown the data that around 10,069 combatants and 7,928 civilians have been killed in the Russian strikes.
Russia too has suffered personal losses when a Russian military transport plane smashed while landing at Hmeymim in March. The incident saw deaths of 39 people.