Russia’s Defense Ministry has accused Israel of criminal negligence and misleading Moscow on downing of the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 military plane off Syria last week.
“We believe that the blame for the tragedy of the Russian Ilyushin-20 lies entirely with the Israeli air force and those who made the decision to carry out such actions," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
“The Israeli military either allowed criminal negligence or lacked professionalism which resulted in the downing of the Il-20,” he said during a press briefing on Sunday in Moscow.
Konashenkov refuted claims by Israel that the Russian reconnaissance plane was struck after all Israeli jets were back in Israeli airspace, saying that F-16 jets maneuvered toward approaching Il-20 and used the aircraft "as a shield” against Syrian anti-aircraft missiles.
By doing so, “the Russian Il-20 couldn't move to a safe place,” Konashenkov was quoted by Sputnik News on Sunday.
According to the Russians, new details about the incident showed that Israeli jets left the area only 10 minutes after receiving information that the crew of the Il-20 had began an emergency descent after it was hit.
Konashenkov added that Israeli jets may have also posed a threat to passenger planes when the Il-20 was shot down.
He added that Israel’s Air Force has on multiple occasions “created potentially dangerous situations for the Russian forces located in Syria,” and that Moscow has used the deconfliction mechanism to warn of operations 310 times more often than the IDF which has notified Russia only 25 times since it was put in place.
The Russians accuse Israel of warning of the strike only a minute prior to the operation, contradicting claims by the IDF that the warning was given in Russian several minutes ahead of the strike on a Syrian military facility in the coastal city of Latakia.The IDF’s delegation to Moscow
headed by Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin returned to Israel early Friday morning after meeting with senior Russian officials following an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Israel presented all facts regarding the incident including intelligence gathered prior to the strike, the recording of the hotline call between Tel Aviv and Khmeimim prior to the Israeli operation, the significance of the attack and the findings of the IDF’s investigation.
According to a statement released by the IDF Spokeperson’s Unit on Sunday, the “comprehensive, accurate and factual details are known to the relevant professionals in the Russian military.”
The statement stressed Israel’s denial of using the Russian plane as cover and re-emphasized that all IAF jets were back in Israeli airspace when the plane was hit.
“The result of the downing of the Russian plane by Syrian fire is severe and tragic and we convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the Russian People,” the statement read.
According to Israel’s military the coordination mechanism between the IDF and the Russian military has proven its value numerous and that its “continuation is a shared interest in light of the various regional challenges.”
Responding to Russia’s claim that Israel has endangered the lives of personnel in Syria, the IDF stated that their safety is a focal component in the planning and approval of all operations.
“The safety and well-being of the Russian troops who operate in Syria are a focal component in every approval of any activity by senior officials in the IDF and in Israel. The IDF will continue to take all necessary measures, as it has been doing until this very day, to achieve this goal.”
Israel has placed the blame for the incident squarely on the Syrian regime which shot the Russian-made anti-aircraft battery during the Israeli airstrike last Monday night.
“There was no provocation against the Ilyushin,” said a senior IDF official on condition of anonymity, explaining that over 20 anti-aircraft missiles were fired by the Syrian regime in an irresponsible manner which put other planes at risk.
“We proved how the Syrian reckless anti-air fire was the direct cause of hitting the Russian aircraft," he said. "They fired quite recklessly and irresponsibly and unprofessionally into the air long after our planes were no longer there."
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