Russia blames Israel after Syrian forces accidentally shoot down Russian plane

Russia blames Israel after Syrian forces accidentally shoot down Russian plane
An Israeli F-16 fighter jet takes off during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on December 29, 2016. The Syrian military shot down a Russian plane while trying to shoot down Israel F-16's. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired at four Israeli F-16 fighter jets that were conducting a raid. But they missed and ended up shooting down a Russian military aircraft flying over the Mediterranean Sea. Now Russia is blaming Israel for the incident.

What happened?

Four Israeli jets and French naval vessels were conducting airstrikes in the Latakia province of of Syria, near the Mediterranean Sea.

The Russian jet, meanwhile, was preparing to land at Hmeyim air base, which is located near Latakia. Fifteen people were on board when it was hit by Syrian fire. Russia has a peace treaty with Israel, but it is also using its military to prop up the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Israel, as well as France and the United States, have been opposed to the Assad regime. Russia has played a pivotal role in ensuring that Assad continues to gain ground against Syrian rebel groups favored by the United States.

Israel has also opposed the presence of Iranian troops and Hezbollah militants in Syria.

The Russian military is accusing the Israelis of purposely using the Russian jet as cover to hide from the Syrian batteries.

What did Russia say?

Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the Russian state news agency TASS that Russia viewed “the provocative actions of Israel as hostile.”

“Fifteen Russian servicemen died as a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military,” Konashenkov said. “This is absolutely not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has taken a less firm stance on the incident, calling it a “tragic chain of circumstance” and saying that an investigation would be conducted into the matter. He also noted that the Israeli military had not shot down the Russian plane.

What did Israel say?

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said in a statement “Israel expresses its regret over the death of the crew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire.”

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane fully responsible for this incident,” Manelis said. “Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident.”