Israel expressed regret on Tuesday for the loss of 15 Russian lives that was caused the previous evening when Syrian air defense downed a Russian plane while trying to intercept an airstrike launched by Israel, which claimed responsibility for the attack after originally maintaining silence.
Despite causing anger in Moscow, which vowed a “measured response” against what it described as Israel’s “deliberate provocation” strike which it said deliberately endangered Russian aircraft, the IDF insisted that the Syrian regime ultimately bore responsibility for the loss of life.
“Israel views Iran and Syria as full partners in the result of this sad incident,” the IDF said in a statement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not immediately issue any statement on the matter.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry denounced Israel’s attack on the Syrian city of Latakia, that resulted in a Syrian response which accidentally downed a Russian plane.
Russia blamed Israel for the crash, saying the plane was caught in the crossfire as four Israeli fighters attacked targets in northwestern Syria.
Russia said that Israel warned it of the impending strike just one minute beforehand and deliberately created a “dangerous situation.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, and told him Moscow holds Israel wholly to blame for the shooting down of the Russian plane, Russian news agencies reported.
In keeping with protocol, Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations that it was behind the attack.
The Russian military said the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft was hit 35 kilometers (22 miles) off the coast as it was returning to its home base nearby.
Israel's ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry over the incident, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
"The Israeli pilots were using the Russian aircraft as a shield and pushed it into the line of fire of the Syrian defense," ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
Russia said it would make an "appropriate response" to Israel.
"We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile," Konashenkov told Russian state television. "As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished."
He said the Israeli pilots "could not have failed to see the Russian aircraft, as it was coming in to land from a height of 5 km (three miles). Nevertheless, they deliberately carried out this provocation."
"This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership," the spokesman said.
"We reserve the right to take commensurate measures in response," Konashenkov added, without giving details of what those measures would be.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, told reporters that the Kremlin is "analyzing the situation" and does not want to speak further at this point.
The Kremlin emphasized that Israel's short notice did not give the Russian plane enough time to escape.
A recovery operation in the Mediterranean Sea is underway, Konashenkov said.