Putin explains how Russian jet was shot down off Syria

Arturo Kim
September 20, 2018

In a Wednesday analysis piece in Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli military analyst Ron Ben Yishai said that Israel would - in response to the incident - try to persuade Russian Federation not to give Syria its advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Israel was forced to make a rare admission that it was behind the attack on Tuesday after a Russian jet was downed on Monday by Syrian aerial defenses, killing 15 troops.

The aircraft, which was on its way back to the Russian-run Hmeimim air base, disappeared from the radar on Monday night at a time when four Israeli F-16 fighters attacked targets in Syria's Latakia province.

Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone that Israel's air force had been conducting operations in breach of Syria's sovereignty, a Kremlin statement said.

The incident marked the first mistake strike between Syria and Russian Federation, which is the main ally to the Syrian government.

Earlier this month, it acknowledged having carried out more than 200 strikes in Syria over the past 18 months, mainly against Iranian targets.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Israeli pilots had used the Il-20 as cover in order to evade Syrian air defenses, thus making the Russian plane a target. It added that Israeli planes were already in Israeli airspace when Syria fired the missiles that hit the Russian plane.

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"We are determined that such tragic events will sway neither you nor us from continuing the fight against terrorism", he added in the letter published by the official Sana news agency. It expressed "sorrow" for the Russian deaths, but insisted the Russian plane had been felled by "extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (surface-to-air missile) fire".

Putin said he had signed off on the defence ministry statement.

The incident was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia's game-changing military intervention in September 2015.

Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, who like their patron Iran have been helping Assad militarily in Syria, said Israeli strikes there would not prevent them getting advanced weaponry.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah said the Shiite movement would stay in Syria "until further notice".

Monday's attack came just hours after Russian Federation and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of the Idlib province, which is the last remaining stronghold of anti-government militants, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (also known as the Jabhat Al-Nusra).

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