UPDATE, 1215 GMT: Rejecting Russia’s criticism, Israel says it “holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident”.
The Israel Defense Forces, departing from standard practice, acknowledged its strikes on regime positions in western Syria. It expressed sorrow for the deaths of the Russian personnel on the Il-20 surveillance plane downed by a regime anti-air missile.
The IDF pushed back Moscow’s claim that Israeli F-16 fighters were using the Il-20 for cover, saying the Russian plane “was not within the area of the operation”. Meanwhile, the statement said, the attacking planes had already returned to Israeli airspace when the Assad regime’s military fired its S-200 missiles.
Israel will share all the relevant information with the Russian Government to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) September 18, 2018
UPDATE 0830 GMT: Russia has now acknowledged that its Il-20 surveillance plane, with 14 personnel aboard, was not shot down by a France warship but by a Russian-made S-200 missile fired by the Assad regime’s military.
But Moscow is blaming Israel for the incident, claiming that the Israelis did not follow “de-conflict arrangements” established between the two countries since September 2015. It accused attacking F-16 jets of hiding behind the Il-20, thus putting it at risk from the anti-air fire.
The Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Russia views Israel’s actions as hostile and reserves the right to retaliate. The Israeli Ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry.
#Russia said its plane brought down by Syria in friendly fire incident but #Israel responsible because at time Israel mounting air attacks on Syria targets it had given Moscow 1minute warning not enough time 4 plane to get to safety. It accused Israel of "irresponsible actions"
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) September 18, 2018
#Syria: #Russia|n MoD released a map (via @yarinah1) showing 4 sites allegedly bombed yesterday by #Israel near #Latakia: #SyAF Aerodrome, Aluminium Factory (Industrial Area), Military Base & Oil/Fuel Storage. pic.twitter.com/8pTxvnwVAA
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) September 18, 2018
Israeli missiles struck targets across regime-held Latakia and Tartous Provinces in western Syria on Monday night, while a Russia military plane with 14 servicemen was shot down — possibly in the response by the Assad regime’s air defenses.
A US official said the regime’s military accidentally hit the plane with a Russian-made missile system. The Russian Defense Ministry pointed at France, saying its warship was firing rockets nearby:
Connection has been lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane over the Mediterranean Sea 35 km (22 miles) from the Syrian coast as it was returning to the Hmeimim airbase [in Latakia Province].
At the same time Russian air control radar systems detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne which was located in that region.
Following standard practice, the Israeli Defense Forces made no comment.
The Assad regime’s military claimed that the Israeli air force’s attacks was joined by US and British ships, with 28 cruise missiles fired. It said the assault targeted an Organization for Technological Industries center in Latakia, claiming — as usual — that many of the missiles were intercepted.
One military source said there were 10 casualties.
The Organization for Technological Industries is a subsidiary of the regime’s Defense Ministry of Defense and is involved in development of both missiles and chemical weapons.
A French army spokesman denied any involvement, as did a Pentagon counterpart, “The missiles were not fired by the US military and we have nothing further at this time.”
Israel has periodically carried out missile strikes on regime targets since the Syrian uprising began in 2011. Initially the attacks concentrated on preventing transfer of weapons and rockets from Iran to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, another essential ally for the Assad regime, and on deterring any Iranian and Hezbollah presence in southwest Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. In the past year, the strikes have expanded on regime positions, including major bases, across the country in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that all Iranian and Iranian-led personnel withdraw.
On September 4, sites — believed to be Iranian military posts — in Tartous and Hama Provinces were hit. Last Saturday, the Israelis reportedly targeted an Iranian plane at the Damascus International Airport, preventing its delivery of weapons to pro-Assad forces — including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps units — and several weapons storage facilities.
And on Monday, the Israelis issued a pointed warning to Bashar al-Assad, featuring his Palace among three photographs from a new spy satellite.
The other two images were of Damascus International Airport and tanks at a regime base.