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Russian aircrew deaths: Putin and Netanyahu defuse tension

Russian aircrew deaths: Putin and Netanyahu defuse tension

Israel offered condolences for the deaths of the Russian troops but said it holds the Syrian government "fully responsible".

Russian Federation blamed Israel on Tuesday for the loss of a military IL-20M jet to Syrian fire, which killed all 15 servicemen on board, and threatened a response.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the Il-20 reconnaissance plane was shot down over the Mediterranean on Monday by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles and accused Israeli fighter jets of "pushing" the aircraft into the line of fire. Israeli military officials have previously praised its effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the U.S. "expresses its sorrow" for the death of the Russian plane crew downed in Syria.

Russia's military says one of its aircraft with 14 people on board has disappeared over Syria's Mediterranean Sea coast.

Syrian state media reported that Latakia came under attack at about the same time that the Il-20 disappeared as it was heading for a nearby Russian airbase.

Throughout the fighting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained continuous contact with Russian Federation.

"I looks most likely in this case that it was a chain of tragic chance events, because an Israeli aircraft did not shoot down our aircraft".

Mr Putin said "radical militants" such as the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham would have to withdraw from the zone.

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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)".

Russia's claim was contradicted by USA reports that said Syria's air defenses were "largely ineffective" in response to its "precise and overwhelming" strikes.

"Israel struck at Syria using the Russian Il-20 as cover, thinking Syria wouldn't strike back", Sergey Shoigu said, notifying his Israeli counterpart that "Russia will not leave the actions of Israeli air force in Syria unanswered".

"The trace of the Il-20 on flight control radars disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province", the statement was quoted as saying.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday Moscow was "extremely concerned" about the downing of the aircraft, but declined to comment on further steps the Russian government might take in response or on any potential impact on relations between Russia and Israel. According to Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, four Israeli F-16s bombed the city of Lattakia on the evening of September 17, without warning Moscow, "creating a risky situation for surface ships and aircraft in the area".

Israel responded by saying Syria is responsible for shooting down the aircraft.

He said Israel informed Russia about a planned operation only one minute before the airstrike, leaving no time for the Russian military to move the plane away to a secure zone.

On Saturday an Israeli missile attack targeted Syria's capital airport, SANA said, activating air defenses which shot down a number of the projectiles.

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.

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