An IDF delegation led by Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin will leave for Moscow on Thursday morning following the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles on Monday night.The Head of the Foreign Relations Division, Brig.-Gen. Erez Meisel along with other officers from the Intelligence, Air Force and Operations Divisions will join Norkin on the visit to Moscow.“The Commander of the Air Force and the delegation will present the picture of the event in all of its aspects, including the preliminary information and main findings of the IDF investigation of the incident,” read a statement by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.They will also present the ongoing attempts by Iran to transfer strategic weapons to Hezbollah as well as it’s entrenchment in Syria.On Tuesday IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis expressed his regret over the downing of the plane but placed the blame solely on the Assad regime."Israel expresses its regret over the death of the crew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire,” read the statement released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. “Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident."Manelis confirmed that the IDF had struck a Syrian military facility 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,” he said on a call with reporters on Tuesday.On Wednesday evening images released by ImageSat International (ISI) showed the destruction of the facility.According to the preliminary investigation launched by the Israeli Air Force, the Russian Ilyushin military plane was not within the area of operation of Israeli jets, and when it was struck all Israeli jets which took part in the operation had already returned to Israeli territory.“The Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired indiscriminately and from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” Manelis said, adding that “the extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft missile fire cause the Russian plane to be hit.”An official from Russia’s Defense Ministry was quoted by TASS News that the plane went off the radar while four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in the Syrian province of Latakia. Moscow accused Israel Tuesday morning of using the IL-20 as cover to carry out the strikes and said Israel warned them of the operation only one minute before.
"As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished," TASS news agency quoted Russian defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov as saying. "This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right to take commensurate measures in response." Earlier on Tuesday the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on social media that the Israeli ambassador had been called into her ministry in connection with what had happened near Syria. Manelis denied the reports, saying that the deconflication mechanism implemented with Russia over Syria to coordinate their actions in order avoid accidental clashes in Syrian airspace “was in use tonight like it has been in use in the past.”Israel said that it will share all relevant information with the Russian government to review the incident and to confirm the facts of the inquiry.Israel rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria but has publicly admitted to having struck over 200 targets in Syria over the past year and a half.According to the IDF, the strikes which mainly targeted advanced weapons systems and infrastructure belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps were aimed at preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
Russia says Israel indirectly to blame for downed plane over Syria, September 18, 2018 (Reuters)