Syria intercepts missiles headed for Latakia: State media

Russia blames Israel for Syria shooting down its spy plane

The United States believes that a Russian military aircraft has been inadvertently shot down by Syrian government anti-aircraft artillery, a U.S. official said.

Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian patrol plane by mistake, amidst an Israeli air strike on hostile positions in Syria, killing all 15 personnel on board.

A Russian reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by a Syrian missile over the Mediterranean Sea, killing all 15 people on board, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

"By using the Russian plane as a cover, the Israeli pilots made it vulnerable to Syrian air defence fire".

An unnamed United States source has a different theory on the attack, telling CNN that the Russian plane was "inadvertently shot down" by Syrian government anti-aircraft artillery trying to stop the barrage of Israeli missiles.

The Russian Defense Ministry later reported that the plane had been downed by the Syrian air defense systems.

Russian Federation has launched a search and rescue operation where the plane crashed into the Mediterranean about 27 kilometres (17 miles) west of the coastal town Baniyas in Latakia province.

Around the time the plane disappeared, the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, near a Russian airbase to which the Il-20 was returning, came under attack from "enemy missiles" and missile defence batteries responded, Syrian state media reported.

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. "It will be something everyone will notice", Putin said.

"Netanyahu promised to provide detailed information on the activities of the Israeli air force over the Syrian territory on that day for the goal of a meticulous investigation of the tragedy".

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Any row between Israel and Russian Federation could diminish Israel's freedom to carry out air strikes inside Syria on what it sees as the greatest threat to its security from Syria's war - build-ups of Iranian forces or groupings of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

USA and Israeli officials have said Iran and Hezbollah should end their armed presence in Syria. The Syrian military shot down a Russian plane while trying to shoot down Israel F-16's.

According to Konashenkov, the Israelis had given Russian Federation "less than one-minute" warning before the 10 pm strike on Latakia province, where Russian Federation has a base.

Russian Federation said its Il-20 went down about 35 kilometers from the Syrian coast at about 11 p.m. local time, during the heat of the battle.

Hmeimim is Russia's main base for air strikes on rebel groups in Syria - strikes that have enabled President Assad's forces to recover much lost ground since 2015.

"Hiding behind the Russian aircraft, the Israeli pilots put it in the line of fire of Syrian anti-aircraft systems".

"The Israeli ambassador has been summoned to the foreign ministry over the situation", a ministry representative told AFP. "Nevertheless, they deliberately carried out this provocation", Konashenkov said.

An Israeli military official recently said it had hit more than 200 Iranian targets in Syria over the past 18 months, with Russian Federation largely turning a blind eye, a situation Israel would want to continue. In some cases, those countries are backing opposing sides in the Syrian war. Israel has launched frequent attacks in Syria.

However, diplomats and military experts have warned that the risk of inadvertent strikes is high.

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