Russia blames Israel for deadly strike on Russian jet in Syria

A file photo shows a Russian Air Force Ilyushin IL-20 surveillance plane landing at Kubinka Air Force base.

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Russia’s Defense Ministry warned it could retaliate against Israel on Tuesday after one of its surveillance aircraft with 15 people on board was brought down by a Syrian surface-to-air missile over the Mediterranean Sea. Rescuers found the wreckage about 17 miles off the Syrian coast and recovered the remains of the 15 Russian service members.

The Russian military said the plane was hit by accident by one of the Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missiles, which had been aimed at four Israeli F-16 fighter jets that were attacking targets in the coastal province of Latakia late on Monday.

Russia said the Israeli aircraft “pushed” the Russian Ilyushin 20 (IL-20) surveillance turboprop plane into the line of fire. The ministry accused the Israeli army of “intentional provocation” and said Israel did not warn Russia of its operation in the area until one minute before the strike.

“Using the Russian jet as a shield, the Israeli pilots put it in the fire of Syrian air defense systems,” Russian media quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov as saying. “As a result of the irresponsible actions by the Israeli military, 15 Russian servicemen have died. This is absolutely out of line with the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right to take appropriate action in response.”

Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad and it has two military bases in the country, including one close to the Mediterranean coast.

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