TASS, September 19. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sent condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the downing of the Russian Il-20 military plane off the Syrian coast on September 17 and accused Israel of the incident, SANA news agency said on Wednesday posting the message of condolences on its site.
"On behalf of the Syrian people and by my name, we express our deep condolence over the fall of the Russian jet on the Mediterranean, causing the martyrdom of the Russian heroes who were doing their noble duties along with their colleagues of the Russian military forces in the fight against terrorism in Syria," Assad said.
SANA added that "the regrettable incident was a result of the Israeli usual rampage which always uses the dirtiest means to achieve its low purposes and carry out its aggression in our region."
"We are confident that such painful acts would not affect you and us to continue fighting terrorism," the Syrian president said.
Tragedy over the Mediterranean
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier that on September 17 at about 23.00 Moscow time, radar contact with a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 warplane, which was flying back to the Russian air base Hmeymim, was lost over the Mediterranean at a distance of 35 kilometers off the Syrian coast. There were 15 Russian troops aboard the plane. Then, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Il-20 disappeared off the radars during airstrikes delivered by four Israeli F-16 fighter jets on the Syrian targets in Latakia province.
Later, the Defense Ministry informed that the Il-20 was shot down by Syrian air defense systems because Israel’s F-16 fighter jets used it as 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, adding that Israel’s actions are considered in Russia as hostile.
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.
Later in the day, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released a communique expressing sorrow for the death of the Il-20 crew members.