Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and former head of Military Intelligence, said on Thursday the crisis caused by the Syrian army's downing of a Russian military aircraft during an Israeli raid on a weapons cache in Latakia was "very serious," and will limit Israel's "operational maneuverability" in the region.
Yadlin drew attention to the statement by the Russian defense minister about Israel's responsibility for the downing and the fact that Russia reserves the right to respond as being very serious statements, “but I think what Israel did was a very correct move," Yadlin said.
In light of the incident, an IDF delegation headed by the Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin departed for Moscow Thursday morning to present the IAF's findings on the incident.
The Russian Embassy in Israel tweeted that it views the IAF’s actions as “irresponsible and unfriendly."
"Russia will take all necessary measures to remove the threat to its forces fighting terrorism," said the statement.
Yadlin added that “instead of maintaining silence, as it often does following attacks in Syria, Israel investigated and released the facts about the incident absolving itself of culpability for the crisis."
“The Air Force knows how to investigate, and photographs the radar images, the command bunkers and cockpits and has categorically proven, even in the post-truth era, that the there is no connection between Israel and the launching of a Russian missile by Syria at a Russian plane,” Yadlin said.
Yadlin also labeled 'absurd' the notion that the Israeli aircraft used the downed Russian plane as bait for the Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
“That is an absurd claim that has no technical or professional basis. It is crucial to place the blame, not on Israel, but on those who pressed the trigger and launched the missile and that is the Syrians,” he exclaimed.
He added that despite the fact that the Russian media and the Russian defense minister blamed Israel for the downing of their aircraft, Russian President Vladimir Putin “cleared Israel” (of responsibility).
Yadlin also emphasized that Israel will have to limit its operational activity in the region.
“In my opinion, Israel will face limitations on its operational maneuverability. The Russians will try to complicate the friction prevention mechanism," he stressed.
Following the aircraft downing, the Russian military increased its activity in the Mediterranean Sea. They closed large segments of Cypriot airspace as well as segments abutting the Syrian coast for military maneuvers until Wednesday.
“It is not possible to close the airspace for too long as civilian aircrafts use the airspace as well,” Yadlin continued.
Regarding statements by Putin concerning strengthening Syrian air defenses, Yadlin said: "I think that his current interest is not to strengthen the Syrian system which ultimately downs Russian aircraft… They probably need to train the Syrians how to differentiate between friend and foe. That is lesson number one in air defense.”