Syria Downed Russia's Plane Because Israeli F-16s Used It As Cover — Russian Top Brass
(Source: TASS; published Sept 18, 2018)
The Russian Ministry of Defense has confirmed that one of its Il-20 Coot eavesdropping aircraft was shot down late on Thursday by a Syrian S-200 missile battery as it was approaching Hmeymim airbase near Latakia. (Russian MoD file photo)
MOSCOW --- Russia’s military plane Ilyushin-20 was shot down by the Syrian air defense over the Mediterranean Sea because Israel’s F-16 fighters used it as a cover, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media on Tuesday.

"By using the Russian plane as a cover, the Israeli air pilots made it vulnerable to Syrian air defense fire. As a result, the Ilyushin-20, its reflective surface being far greater than that of F-16, was downed by a missile launched with the S-200 system," Konashenkov said.

Konashenkov said four F-16s of the Israeli Air Force carried out a strike with guided air bombs against Syrian facilities in the area of Latakia at about 22:00 on September 17. The fighters approached the target from the Mediterranean at a low altitude.

The Israeli planes deliberately created a dangerous situation for surface ships and aircraft in that area, he stated.

"The bombing raid was near the French frigate The Auvergne and in close proximity to the Ilyushin-20 plane of Russia’s Aerospace Force that was about to land," Konashenkov said.

He pointed out that Israeli command centers and F-16s’ pilots "could not but see the Russian plane, which was approaching the runway from an altitude of five kilometers."

"Nevertheless, they deliberately staged this provocation," he said.

According to Konashenkov, Israel had issued no warning to the command of the Russian military group in Syria of the forthcoming operation.

"A hot-line warning was received less than one minute before the strike, which left no chance for taking the Russian plane to safety," he added.

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Russia Military Aircraft 'Disappeared' Off Syria During Israeli Strikes
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Sept 18, 2018)
A Russian military jet carrying 14 servicemen went down during a suspected Israeli attack on the Syrian city of Latakia, Moscow has said. US officials believe Syrian air defenses accidentally shot down the aircraft.

Russia's Defense Ministry has said that one of its military aircraft "disappeared" over the Mediterranean during an Israeli air attack on Syria.

The Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft went down with 14 service members during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on the coastal city of Latakia, near the Hmeymim airbase to which the Russian plane was returning, the ministry said.

It also said it detected missile launches in the area from the French frigate Auvergne. In a statement, the French military has "denied any involvement in the attack."

US officials told CNN and Reuters that Washington believed Syrian air defenses had accidentally shot down the Russian aircraft. If true, it would be an embarrassment for Moscow to have one of its aircraft hit by its Syrian ally, which operates air defense systems provided by Russia.

The Il-20 disappeared from radar at about 11 p.m. Moscow time (20:00 GMT) on Monday some 35 kilometers (22 miles) off the Syrian coast, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

At around the same time, Syrian state media SANA reported that government air defenses had "intercepted hostile missiles coming from the sea into Latakia city."

The Technical Industry Institution on the outskirts of Latakia was reportedly targeted in the alleged Israeli attack. It was unclear if Syrian government or Iranian forces were at the facility. Michael A. Horowitz, a geopolitical and security analyst with Le Beck International, posted a video of the alleged airstrike.

Israel rarely acknowledges carrying out specific airstrikes in Syria, but is believed to be behind dozens of attacks on Iranian forces and Hezbollah weapons shipments. Israeli officials have repeatedly stated they will not hesitate to target Iranian advanced weapons in Syria.

On Saturday, Syrian air defenses downed suspected Israeli missiles fired at the Damascus airport, state media reported.

Russia has generally turned a blind eye to Israeli attacks on Iranian forces in Syria and the two countries' militaries maintain a hotline to avoid mistakes. It is unclear whether the Israeli military notified Russia ahead of Monday night's attack in Latakia.

However, the downing of a Russian aircraft in the crowded airspace over Syria may alter Israeli military calculations and its ability to operate against Iran.

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