Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sent Russian President Vladimir Putin a telegram, expressing his condolences over the recent IL-20 plane downing in Syria, SANA News agency reported on September 19th.
According to the Syrian outlet, Assad wrote in his letter to Vladimir Putin that the Russian Il-20 plane crash near Hmeymim air base was a result of Israeli arrogance.
Syrian president expressed his condolences over the tragedy and said that he hoped that the plane crash would not impede Russian and Syrian joint fight against terrorism.
“I express my sincere condolences on behalf of the Syrian people in connection with the crash of the Russian Il-20 military aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea, which led to the death of Russian military heroes who performed the valiant task of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the fight against terrorism in Syria,” SANA News Agency cited the telegram.
“This sad incident is the result of the arrogance and reckless violence of Israel, which constantly uses the dirtiest methods to achieve its sinister goals and to carry out aggression in the region,” Assad stressed.
The Russian plane carrying 15 service members disappeared from radars on September 17th as four Israeli jet fighters were attacking state institutions in Syria’s Latakia Province, which is home to Russia-run Khmeimim airbase.
Russia’s Defense Ministry held Israel responsible for the incident, saying the Israeli warplanes “created a dangerous situation” that led to the downing of the Russian aircraft by Syria’s S-200 missile defense system.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also condemned Israel’s aerial operations against Syria as a violation of the Arab country’s sovereignty, saying, “Russian-Israeli agreements on the prevention of dangerous incidents were not observed” in this case.
A statement by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed regret over the deaths, and “offered to send the Israeli Air Force commander to Moscow to deliver all the necessary details.”
Israel’s official statement contained information regarding the incident, while also blaming Iran and the Hezbollah group for it.
The deconfliction system, used by the Israeli Defense Forces and the Russian army was in use the night of the incident. According to Israel – “extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (Surface to Air missile) fire caused the Russian plane to be hit and downed.” It also added that when the Russian plane was downed, Israeli Air Forces were already in Israel’s airspace.
That appears to also be the narrative in mass media: accidental Syrian fire shot down the Russian airplane.
On September 20th, a delegation led by Amikam Norkin, Israel’s Air Force commander is to travel to Moscow with information regarding the plane crash.
As reported by the Drive, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has threatened an unspecified response to future Israeli air strikes in Syria, though Russian President Vladimir Putin has since taken a less aggressive stance.
“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 at a press conference in Moscow later on September 18th. “The Israeli side didn’t issue a notification or, to be more precise, they warned us a minute before conducting the strike. They told us they were about to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, and they did it.”
Later Putin described the incident as a “chain of tragic circumstances,” completely dismissing accusations that Israel deliberately targeted the IL-20.
“The retaliatory measures will be directed above all to boosting the security of military men and installations in Syria,” Putin said. “These will be measures everyone will see.”
The US also expressed condolences for the loss of life. The US Department of State released a statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“The United States expresses deep sorrow for the death of the aircrew of the Russian plane that was downed by Syrian regime anti-aircraft fire,” Pompeo wrote on September 18th. “Yesterday’s unfortunate incident reminds us of the need to find permanent, peaceful, and political resolutions to the many overlapping conflicts in the region and the danger of tragic miscalculation in Syria’s crowded theater of operations.”
As reported by Xinhua, Israel has carried out some 200 airstrikes over the last 18 months, claiming that the attacks aimed to prevent Iranian weapons convoys and stop Iran from establishing a military foothold in Syria.
It now remains to be seen what the Kremlin’s response will be to future Israeli air strikes, which are all but certain to happen.