The Russian military has accused the Israeli Air Force of playing a significant role in causing Syrian air defence forces to shoot down a Russian Il-20 plane, killing 15 Russian military personnel. The air defences were responding to an air raid by Israel on Latakia.

Iran Press- Europe/ According to a statement by Russia's ministry of defense,  the Israeli Air Force launched their surprise night attack on Latakia in a way that deliberately put the Russian plane in harm’s way. The ministry said Israel must have known that they were setting up the Russian plane to be hit by a Syrian counterattack, but failed to either change their approach to targets in Syria or give Moscow enough time to move the Il-20 to safety, RT reported.

According to the Russian military, four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria on Monday night, approaching from the Mediterranean Sea at a low altitude. The Il-20 was on patrol in the same area, and was shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile that was launched in response to the Israeli attack.

“We consider these provocative actions by Israel as hostile. Fifteen Russian military service members have died because of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military. This is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership,” the statement said. “We reserve the right for an adequate response.”

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The statement also updated the death toll arising from the incident to 15.  Earlier, the Russian military said there had been 14 crew members on board the missing plane, which went off radar screens on Monday night, during an Israeli Air Force raid on Latakia. A search and rescue operation off the Syrian coast is underway. 

The Russian president Vladimir Putin has also commented on the downing of the Russian plane. President Putin during a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow on Tuesday, said:  “When people are dying – especially under such circumstances – it is always a tragedy.”

Responding to a reporter’s question as to whether the incident in Latakia could be compared to the downing of the Russian Su-24 by Turkey in 2015, Putin said the two situations were “different.”

Ankara “deliberately downed” the Russian jet, he explained, while the Il-20 incident “looks like a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Russia will investigate the incident, Putin said, adding that Moscow will boost security of Russian troops in Syria following the incident.

Asked what was his position with regards to Israel's road in the incident, president Putin said his position was exactly that of the Russian defense ministry. The Russian defense ministry has put the blame for the downing of the Russian plane squarely at the feet of the Israeli military.

The Israeli regime has yet to offer any public comment on the Monday night raid, which is in line with its usual policy. 

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An Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jet
An Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jet