Russia says Syrian missile brought down military aircraft

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Russia’s defence ministry said one of its reconnaissance aircraft has been brought down by a Syrian surface-to-air missile over the Mediterranean Sea.

Rescuers are searching for wreckage but do not expect survivors among the 15 people who were on board.

The Russian military said the plane was hit by accident by one of the missiles, which were aimed at four Israeli fighter jets that were attacking targets in the coastal province of Lattakia late on Monday.

Russia said the Israeli aircraft “pushed” the Russian plane into the line of fire.

The ministry accused the Israeli army of “intentional provocation” and said Israel did not warn Russia of its operation in the area until one minute before the strike.

Russia has been a key backer of Syrian president Bashar Assad and it has two military bases in the country, including one close to the Mediterranean coast.

The Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft was struck 22 miles off the coast as it was returning to its home base nearby.

Russia said it would make an “appropriate response” to Israel later.

For several years, Israel and Russia have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria. Israeli military officials have previously praised its effectiveness.

The Israeli military said earlier that it has no reaction, saying it does not comment on “foreign reports”.

Later, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu later said Israel is responsible for the incident in a phone call to his counterpart in Israel, according to Russian television.

Russian TV quoted a Defence Ministry statement as saying Mr Shoigu told Avigdor Lieberman that Israel is “fully to blame” for the deaths of the 15 people on board.

Mr Shoigu said Russia had not been notified of Israel’s operation in the area despite the hotline between the two countries that should be preventing such accidents.

He added that Russia “reserves the right” to respond to Israel’s actions.

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