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Moscow says Israel to blame for Syrian downing of Russian jet

Paul Gypteau, AFP file photo | A Russian Sukhoi Su-30SM jet at a military base in Latakia in Syria, on Dec. 16, 2015

Russia on Tuesday accused Israel of a hostile provocation and threatened retaliation after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing a Russian military plane to be shot down near Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

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Russia’s defence ministry, in a statement reported by Russian news agencies, said the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft was brought down by anti-aircraft batteries of Moscow’s ally, Syria, in a friendly fire incident.

But the ministry said it held Israel responsible because, at the time of the incident, Israeli fighter jets were mounting air attacks on Syria targets and had only given Moscow one minute’s warning, not enough time for the Russian plane to get to safety.

The defence ministry said 15 people were killed when the Russian plane was brought down as it came in to land at the Hmeymim air base in western Syria, which is controlled by Russian forces.

Russian jet downed over Syria: 'Very tense situation between Russia and Israel'

“As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished. This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.

“We reserve the right to take commensurate measures in response,” Konashenkov was quoted as saying.

Konashenkov described the Israeli military’s actions as hostile and an act of provocation, Interfax reported.

Earlier, the Russian defence ministry had said the turbo-prop plane vanished from radar screens over Syria at the same time as Israeli and French forces were launching strikes on targets in Syria.

A U.S. official said Washington believed the aircraft was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Syrian government forces.

Around the time the plane disappeared, the Syrian coastal city of Latakia came under attack from « enemy missiles », and missile defence batteries responded, Syrian state media reported.

France denied any involvement in the plane’s disappearance.  Israel’s military, contacted before Russia alleged Israel was to blame, declined to comment.

(REUTERS)

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