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Netanyahu threatens Hizballah with 'crushing blow' after missile claim

Netanyahu also expressed his 'sorrow' over the downing of a Russian military plane [AFP]

Date of publication: 21 September, 2018

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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took shot at Hizballah on Thursday amid delicate diplomatic dealings with Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed on Thursday to deal a "crushing blow" to Hizballah if it attacks Israel, following claims by the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that it has precision missiles aimed at Israel.

Netanyahu also expressed his "sorrow" over the deaths of 15 Russian airmen when a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane was downed Monday by Syrian air defence forces that mistook it for an Israeli jet.

The incident threatened to derail close security ties between Russia and Israel.

Netanyahu said he told Putin "the root of the problem is Iran's attempt to use Syrian territory for attacks against Israel and to arm our enemies, such as Hizballah."

The Israeli military said in a statement that they presented the situation report regarding the plane's downing, as well as the pre-mission information and the findings of an Israeli military inquiry.

It also said its fighter jets were targeting a Syrian military facility involved in providing weapons for Iran's proxy Hizballah militia and insisted it warned Russia of the coming raid in accordance with deconfliction agreements.

It said the Syrian army fired the missiles that hit the Russian plane when the Israeli jets had already returned to Israeli airspace.

But the Russian Defence Ministry charged that the Israeli warning came less than a minute before the strike, leaving the Russian aircraft in the line of fire. It accused the Israeli military of deliberately using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian defences and threatened to retaliate.

The downing underlines the potential for conflict between the powers vying for influence in Syria, as well as highlights an apparent lack of communication between Russian aircraft in the skies and Syrian defences on the ground, giving a damning appraisal of the Assad regime's military capabilities, analysts told The New Arab.

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