Russia says Israeli role in Syria plane downing was premeditated

Moscow says ties between Israel and Russia will be affected by last week’s deadly incident.

IAF pilots are seen inside fighter jet during exercise dubbed " Juniper Falcon" at Ovda Airbase
Israeli pilots' actions that led to the downing of a Russian plane were allegedly "premeditated" [File: Reuters]

The Kremlin has accused Israel of “premeditated actions” over the downing of a Russian plane in Syria last week, warning it will harm relations between the two countries.

“According to information of our military experts, the reason [behind the downing] were premeditated actions by Israeli pilots which certainly cannot but harm our relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday.

Peskov’s remarks followed an announcement by Russia‘s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that Moscow will be sending an advanced S-300 air defence system to the Syrian military as well as jamming communications of any military planes that attack Syria from over the Mediterranean.

On September 17, a Russian Il-20 plane was hit by a Syrian S-200 air defence missile when it was landing following attacks by Israeli F-16 planes of western Syria. Moscow blamed the friendly fire incident on Israeli pilots using the larger Russian plane as “cover”.

Peskov said the new measures were decided on to boost the security of its troops in Syria.

“Russia, in this case, is acting in its interests only, these actions are not directed against third countries, but towards defending our own military,” he said.

The S-300 air defence system will be delivered to Syria within two weeks [File: Ivan Sekretarev/AP]
The S-300 air defence system will be delivered to Syria within two weeks [File: Ivan Sekretarev/AP]

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said the announcement was a reversal of previous agreements with Israel.

“The S-300 was a deal that had been signed with Syria in 2013, but Israel put its foot down on negotiation with Russia and Russia decided that it was going to hold off delivering these units,” he said.

“In the aftermath of the events last week, in which a Russian plane was shot down in the area over the Syrian coast, Russia has obviously decided to go against that agreement with Israel.”

He also said that there seemed to be some differences between the Russian Defence Ministry and the Kremlin over the handling of the Israel issue.

“The Russian defence ministry is very angry at Israel. The Kremlin seems to be wanting to play the issue down,” he said.

Syria’s war

The incident was also the worst case of friendly fire between Russia and Syria since Moscow’s military intervention in the country in support of President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces in September 2015.

Since intervening in Syria’s war, Russia has generally turned a blind eye to Israeli attacks inside the country.

Israel has carried out about 200 air raids in the last two years, according to Israeli officials.

For several years, Israel and Russia have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria. Israeli military officials have previously praised its effectiveness.

A dispute between Israel and Russia could restrict Israel’s ability to mount air raids inside Syria on what it considers the greatest threat to its security from the Syria conflict: the build-up of Iranian forces or Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies