TEL AVIV, September 18. /TASS/. Israel expresses sorrow for the death of the crew members of the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 plane that was downed on September 17 in Syria, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Tuesday.
"Israel expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire," IDF said. "Overnight, IDF fighter jets targeted a facility of the Syrian Armed Forces from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon."
"These weapons were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it," IDF stressed, putting the blame for the incident on the Syrian authorities. "Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident," IDF said. "Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident."
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, at about 23:00 Moscow time (GMT + 3) on September 17, radio contact was lost with a Russian Il-20 plane over Syria’s Mediterranean Sea coast that was returning to the Hmeymim airbase. The jet disappeared from the radars during an attack by four Israeli F-16 fighter jets on targets in Syria’s Lataka governorate.
Later, the Russian defense ministry said the Russian Il-20 was shot down by Syria’s air defense over the Mediterranean Sea because Israel’s F-16 fighter jets used it as a cover. The Israeli command centers and the 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, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday, stating that Israel is solely to blame for the downing of Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea. The irresponsible actions by the Israeli Air Force led to a tragedy, which claimed the lives of 15 Russian military personnel, he said.