Syrian anti-aircraft systems shot down a Russian airplane with 14 people aboard moments after an alleged Israeli airstrike against a Syrian military installation on Monday night. Russia is blaming Israel, claiming that the Israeli government’s warning did not come in time to remove their forces away from the area of the attack.
“We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile,” Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian state television. “As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished.”
“We retain the right to an appropriate response,” Konashenkov concluded.
The incident comes in the wake of an attack on a Syrian military installation in the Latakia region of Syria at 11:00 PM local time. It is believed they were attacking the Syrian Organization for Technological Industries, a Syrian military facility responsible for the majority of Syria’s chemical weapons and missiles. Russia claims four Israeli F-16 warplanes carried out the attack. Syrian surface-to-air missiles responded and it is believed they downed the Russian aircraft.
The Russian military said Israel notified the Russian side about the planned operation only a minute in advance, and that Israeli controllers would have seen the Russian plane, which was coming in to land.
The Russian plane, an Ilyushin Il-20 turboprop used as a maritime patrol and electronic intelligence aircraft, went off radar while flying 22 miles off the coast of Syria. Search and rescue operations are underway.
At the behest of the Syrian government in 2015, Russia has a large military presence in the country to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his seven year civil war against rebel forces. Russia currently has two military bases in the country, including an airbase in Latakia.
Russia also claimed that at concurrent with the Israeli air-strike, France launched a missile strike at targets in the same region.
“At the same time Russian air control radar systems detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne which was located in that region,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the defense ministry as saying.
France denied launching any missiles into Syria.
Syrian media reported the attack on their base as a missile strike coming from the Mediterranean.
“Our air defences repelled enemy missiles coming from the open sea towards the city of Latakia and intercepted several of them before they could reach their targets,” Sana news agency reported, citing Syrian military sources.
Israel has not commented on the allegations. As a rule, Israel rarely makes official statements on military operations carried out outside of Israel. In a surprise announcement earlier this month, an Israeli military official said the IDF had hit more than 200 Iranian targets in Syria over the past 18 months.
Julian Röpcke, an editor and political commentator currently working for BILD, Germany’s largest newspaper and leading online news portal, conjectured on Twitter that the incident indicates shocking failures in the Russian military hardware.
Röpcke also pointed out that anti-aircraft systems routinely have a friend-or-foe identification system built-in to prevent precisely such cases of friendly-fire.
Same is true for #Assad's Soviet-made S-200 wich actually SHOULD have a friend-or-foe identification system …
Or did the Russians *forget* about re-programming it while being in Latakia since 2015?! … pic.twitter.com/n0fkRBwG8y
— Julian Röpcke (@JulianRoepcke) September 18, 2018
In this case of a Russian military airplane being shot down by a Russian built missile system sold to the Syrians and used in joint operations, this accident seems like the result of a catastrophic failure of essential systems.