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Russia: 'Israel used Russian aircraft as shield in Syria'

Sept. 23, 2018 3:16 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 25, 2018 1:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that Israel bears responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane, which killed 15 Russian troops, during an Israeli airstrike last week in Latakia, Syria.

Igor Konashenkov, the spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, presented findings of its investigation into last week’s incident, in an press briefing in Moscow, and announced that the ministry holds Israel responsible for the downing.

According to the findings, the Israeli army presented Russia with false information regarding the area where the airstrike was planned to be carried out, which essentially prevented the Russian warplane from leaving the danger zone.

Konashenkov said Israel used the speical hotline, which Israel and Russia have maintained to prevent their air forces from clashing over Syria, to "misinform" Russia about its plans.

He said the Russians were unable to get the Il-20 out of the danger zone due to an Israeli duty officer failing to provide location of their jets or of their targets and telling them of an Israeli operation in northern Syria while the jets were present in Latakia, where the incident took place.

“The Israeli jets saw the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 and used it as a shield against the anti-aircraft missiles, while they carried on maneuvering in the region," Konashenkov said.

He stressed "The military leadership of Israel either has no appreciation for the level of relations with Russia, or has no control over individual commands or commanding officers who understood that their actions would lead to tragedy."

Konashenkov continued "The actions of the Israeli fighter pilots, which led to the loss of life of 15 Russian servicemen, either lacked professionalism or were an act of criminal negligence."

Since the attack, Russia claimed that Israel informed the Kremlin less than one minute's notice prior to the attack, giving the warplane insufficient time to exit the danger zone and fly to safety, which Konashenkov said was "a clear violation of the 2015 Russian-Israeli agreements."

He also emphasized that Russia has never broken its commitment to the Russian-Israeli agreement, keeping Israel always informed about its military missions in advance and never used its air defense capabilities against Israel.

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