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Russia blames Israel after plane shot down

Beirut, Tuesday

Russia has said Syria shot down one of its military planes—but laid the blame for the deaths of the 15 personnel on board with Israel.

The defence ministry said Israeli jets put the plane into the path of Syrian air defence systems on Monday after failing to give Moscow enough warning of a strike on Syrian targets.

The details of what happened are murky, and Russia’s account of the incident has yet to be verified.

According to reports, Monday’s incident occurred about 35km from the Syrian coast as the Ilyushin aircraft was returning to Russia’s Hmeimim airbase near the north-western city of Latakia.

Russia’s Tass news agency says the plane “disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province”.

In a statement, Russia said Israel’s “irresponsible actions” were to blame, saying 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.

“The Israeli planes deliberately created a dangerous situation for surface ships and aircraft in the area,” a defence ministry spokesman said. He accused Israeli pilots of “using the Russian airplane as a cover, putting it in the line of fire coming from Syrian air defence systems”.      

However, Israel’s military disputed Russia’s assertion that it used one of its aircraft as cover while it carried out a strike in Syria, leading to it accidentally being shot down.

“During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation,” a military statement said.

It added that “when the Syrian army launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane, (Israeli) jets were already within Israeli airspace.”

Israel rarely acknowledges carrying out strikes on Syria, but an Israeli military official recently said it had hit more than 200 Iranian targets in Syria over the past 18 months. – Agencies

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