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Israel: 'Russian jet downing won't stop our Syria bombing runs'

An Israeli military delegation travelled to Moscow on Thursday to share information [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 September, 2018

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An Israeli official said Israeli-Russian coordination in Syria remains unchanged despite the deadly downing of a Russian plane.
Israel's coordination with Russia on its attacks in Syria remains unchanged despite the deadly downing of a Russian plane and the Jewish state retains its right to decide on military actions, an Israeli official said on Friday.

"There have been no changes to the deconfliction mechanism as a result of this unfortunate event," the military official said on condition of anonymity, referring to Monday's downing following Israeli airstrikes.

He said the two sides had committed to the "very effective" mechanism but stressed that Israel's "freedom of movement is paramount".

The arrangement was agreed by Israel and Russia in 2015, when Russian forces intervened alongside the regime in Syria to avoid clashes between their militaries inside Syrian territory.

Israel regularly carries out strikes in war-torn Syria against the Syrian government, its Lebanese ally Hizballah and Iranian targets.

But Syrian air defences on Monday night mistakenly struck a Russian Il-20 military plane after an Israeli raid on a Syrian army facility, killing all 15 crew members.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed Israel for the incident, which was the worst case of friendly fire between Moscow and his regime since Russian forces intervened in the war-torn country in late 2015.

Israel denied the allegations, saying its jets were already back in its airspace when Syrian forces launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane.

In a letter to his Russian counterpart, Assad offered his condolences for the deaths after the plane was downed by Syria's Russian-made S-200 air defence system.

"This unfortunate incident was the result of Israeli arrogance and depravity," the Syrian leader said.

"We are determined that such tragic events will sway neither you nor us from continuing the fight against terrorism," he added in the letter published by the official SANA news agency.

The Russian military also accused Israeli pilots of using "the Russian plane as a cover, exposing it to fire from Syrian air defences", saying they reserved the right to respond.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, later adopted a more conciliatory tone, saying the incident was the result of "tragic accidental circumstances”.

He also pledged to beef up security for Russian forces in Syria, which three years ago stepped in to support Assad whose grip on power had been weakened by rebels and extremist fighters.

An Israeli military delegation travelled to Moscow on Thursday to express sorrow over the deaths and to share information with Russian counterparts on the incident.

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