A Russian military plane with 15 servicemen on board went off the radar over the Mediterranean Sea on Monday night, reported BBC. Moscow has alleged that Syria shot down the aircraft, but it blamed Israeli jets for forcing the Il-20 plane into the path of the Syrian air defence system.
The plane “disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province”, according to Russia’s Tass news agency. The incident reportedly took place about 35 km from the Syrian coast as the aircraft was returning to Russia’s Hmeimim airbase.
The defence ministry said it was given just a minute’s warning ahead of the strikes, which was not enough to get the out of the way. Exactly what happened to the aircraft is not yet known. A search-and-rescue operation is under way. “We retain the right to an appropriate response,” said Russian military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov, according to The Guardian.
Israel has expressed “sorrow” for the incident, and blamed Syria and Iran, AFP reported. Media reports quoted the Syrian military as saying that air defences “have confronted enemy missiles coming from the sea in the direction of the Latakia city, and intercepted a number of them”.
The United States said Syrian defences may have accidentally shot down the Russian aircraft while firing at incoming Israeli missiles. “The missiles were not fired by the US military and we have nothing further at this time,” a spokesperson for the Pentagon told The Guardian.
The jet vanished just hours after Russia said there would be no assault against Syria’s Idlib as the presidents of Russia and Turkey agreed to create a “demilitarised zone” in the rebel-held province. After a four-hour-long meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two said their countries would “prevent a humanitarian tragedy.”