by WorldTribune Staff, September 20, 2018
Israel said that when Syrian anti-aircraft fire downed a Russian IL-20 aircraft, its warplanes had finished targeting a facility in Latakia that was linked to Iran weapons transfers to Hizbullah.
IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said the IDF had struck a Syrian military facility from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post reported on Sept. 20.
“These weapons were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it,” Manelis said.
“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hizbullah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident.”
Satellite images emerged on Sept. 19 showing the results of Israel’s strike, which was carried out on Sept. 17 and, in the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin, led to the downing of a Russian plane in a “chain of tragic circumstances.”
During the Israeli operation near Latakia, Syria fired missiles that hit a Russian IL-20, killing all 15 airmen aboard.
A preliminary investigation launched by the Israel Air Force found the Russian plane was not within the area of operation of Israeli jets, and when it was struck, all Israeli jets that took part in the operation had already returned to Israeli territory.
“The Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired indiscriminately and, from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” Manelis said, adding, “The extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft missile fire caused the Russian plane to be hit.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a phone call with Putin, expressed “regret” at the death of the 15 Russian servicemen, and said Syria was responsible for downing the plane.
Netanyahu, according to his office, stressed the importance of continued security cooperation between the two countries that “succeeded in preventing many losses on both sides over the last three years.”
Asked whether the incident would complicate relations with Israel in light of a 2015 incident where Turkish-Russian ties suffered greatly following Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet, Putin responded: “As for your comparison with the downing of our plane by a Turkish fighter, this was a different situation. The Turkish fighter deliberately shot down our aircraft. In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances, because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft.”