IAF Chief to Brief Moscow Over Russian Plane Downing in Syria

September 20, 2018

2 min read

Israel’s Air Force commander will lead a delegation to Moscow today to try and smooth over the diplomatic imbroglio following the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria on Monday night.

The delegation, which is led by Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, will “present the situation report of the event regarding all aspects, including the pre-mission information and the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the incident,” according to an IDF statement. “In addition, they will present the continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terrorist organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria,” the statement continued.

The basic facts of the incident are these; Israeli F-16’s attacked an ammunition warehouse in Latakia, which was thought to house missiles and materiel likely to be used by Hezbollah or other Iranian proxies against Israeli targets. In response to the attack, Syrian air defenses were mobilized and surface-to-air missiles released. One of the missiles slammed into a Russian Ilyushin plane – killing all 15 military personnel on-board.

The Russian military accused Israeli pilots of using “the Russian plane as a cover, exposing it to fire from Syrian air defenses.

“Israel denied the allegations, saying its jets were already back in Israeli airspace when Syrian forces launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his “sorrow” to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday, offering to assist Moscow in the investigation – and hence the reason for such high-ranking military personnel making their way to Russia.

Putin seemed to acknowledge the veracity of Israel’s side of the story claiming that the incident was the result of “tragic accidental circumstances,” though he warned Netanyahu about green-lighting future such operations.

He said Russia would beef up security for its forces in Syria, in what he called “steps that everyone will notice.”


An annotated satellite image showing the results of an Israeli air strike on a Syrian military facility in Latakia. (Credit: Imagesat International ISI)

In an as-yet-unexplained addition to the story, Russia also blamed the downing of its aircraft on a missile fired from a French frigate off Syria’s Mediterranean coast. The French denied that downing the plane, although the did not outright deny launching missiles. On August 21, France joined the United States and Great Britain in warning Syrian President Bashar Assad that it would use military force if it had evidence of any use of chemical weapons by his regime in its upcoming campaign against the rebel enclave of Idlib.

In an unusual move, the IDF acknowledged that it bombed the Latakia facility, no doubt wary of crossing Russia, who have a significant military presence relatively close to Israel’s borders.

The IDF said the weapons stored at the facility “were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it.”

Earlier in September, Israel’s intelligence minister admitted carrying out more than 200 strikes in Syria over the past 18 months.

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