Executive Intelligence Review


Russia Blames Israel for Downing Russian Reconnaissance Aircraft Off Syrian Coast

Sept. 18, 2018 (EIRNS)—The Russian Defense Ministry is placing responsibility for the downing of a Russian IL-20 intelligence aircraft, last night, squarely on Israel. It came during an Israeli attack on Latakia targeting what was reported to be the Technical Industries’ establishment of the Syrian army, which is in downtown Latakia next to Tishreen University. The Il-20 disappeared from Russian radars during the Israeli attack, between 10 and 11 p.m. local time (19:00-20:00 UTC). Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters during a morning briefing at the Defense Ministry that four Israeli F-16 jets used the Il-20 as cover to protect themselves from Syrian air defenses. As a result, the Il-20 was hit by a Syrian missile. “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 was later backed up by a strong statement issued by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu vowing a Russian response.

“We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us,”

Shoigu said. “Our reconnaissance airplane Il-20 with 15 crew members on board” which had been collecting intelligence on jihadi drone operations in Idlib, “was in the strike zone, strictly speaking between Israel’s aircraft—four F-16 planes—and Syrian territory,” he said. “The Israeli side didn’t issue a notification or, to be more precise, they warned us a minute before conducting the strike,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone and apparently minced few words. According to the Kremlin readout, Netanyahu promised to provide detailed information on the activities of the Israeli Air Force over Syrian territory on that day, which will be delivered soon to Moscow by the Israeli Air Force commander. Putin, in turn,

“noted that operations of this nature by the Israeli Air Force are in violation of Syria’s sovereignty. In this particular case, Russian-Israeli agreements on preventing dangerous incidents had not been observed either, and that resulted in the Russian aircraft coming under Syrian air defense fire. The Russian President called on the Israeli side to prevent such incidents in the future.”

Earlier Putin had characterized the incident as a “tragic accident” and differentiated it clearly from the November 2015 shootdown of a Russian Su-24 bomber by Turkish fighters, which was a deliberate ambush. “This time it looks like a string of tragic circumstances,” he said.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the initial Russian anger with a statement expressing sorrow at the loss of 15 Russian lives and acknowledging that it was responsible for the air strike on the Syrian army facility in Latakia, but blaming the loss of the Il-20 on Damascus, Hezbollah and Iran because, according to the Israelis, advanced weapons that were a serious threat to Israel were about to be transferred to Hezbollah on behalf of Iran.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident,”

the IDF said.