Delegation to Moscow ‘debunked’ claim Israeli jets hid behind spy plane, stressed jets had left area before Syrians fired fatal missile; Russia was notified ahead of strike.
Israel: Russia accepts our take on Syrian downing of plane, coordination goes on
By Judah Ari Gross for the Times of Israel – Today, 3:57 pm
“Improvements” may be made to the Israeli military’s coordination with Russia over its operations in Syria in light of the downing of a Russian spy plane earlier this week, a senior Israeli army official said Friday. For now, he stressed, the deconfliction mechanism used by the two countries to coordinate activities was continuing to function effectively.
The official said an Israeli military delegation had answered Russia’s questions over Monday’s incident, including debunking the false notion that the Israeli jets had hidden behind the Russian plane. Israel also clarified that its attack planes had left the area before the Syrians fired the missile that downed the Russian plane.
He also said Israel notified the Russians ahead of the strike, and not a minute before as Moscow had originally claimed. And he dismissed a pro-Hezbollah newspaper’s claim Friday that Russia had refused to accept Israel’s explanations over the incident, for which Israel firmly blames Syria.
On Thursday, an Israeli delegation led by Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin visited Moscow in order to brief Russian officials on Israel’s initial investigation of the incident, in which a Russian reconnaissance plane, with 15 crew members on board, was shot down by Syrian air defenses following an Israeli missile strike on a Syrian weapons facility on Monday night.
During their meetings in Moscow, Norkin’s delegation told their Russian counterparts that the Syrian military fired more than 20 anti-aircraft missiles in response to the Israeli attack — a comparatively large number for this type of scenario. Four Israeli F-16 fighter jets were said to have taken part in the airstrike.
In addition, the senior military officer said the majority of the surface-to-air missiles fired by the Syrians — including the missile that hit the Russian spy plane — were fired after the Israeli jets had left the area.
“Most of those 20 were fired while all of our planes were already in Israeli airspace and on their way to land. We proved how the Syrians’ reckless anti-air fire was the direct cause of hitting the Russian aircraft,” the officer said.
The delegation also refuted the Russian military’s initial claim that the Israeli pilots used the Russian Il-20 spy plane as a “shield” during their attack.
“We emphasized that there is no merit to the theory that this was an Israeli provocation or that Israeli airplanes made any use of the Russian airplane as cover. We debunked that false story,” the officer said.
The senior official added that the Israeli jets were “nowhere near the Russian plane when it was shot down.”
He also refuted a claim made by the Russian military and defense minister that the IDF gave less than a minute’s notice before carrying out the attack.
The officer would not say when the Russians were notified, but said it was “much longer than one minute.”