Israel on Tuesday denied responsibility for the downing of a Russian military plane over Syrian territory, instead blaming Syria’s Assad regime for the incident.
In a statement, the Israeli army expressed sorrow for the death of Russian military personnel who were aboard the ill-fated aircraft, which was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for the incident,” read the army statement.
“Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident,” it added.
Earlier Tuesday, Russian officials said responsibility for the downed plane -- and the death of its 15-member crew -- lay solely with Israel.
But according to the Israeli army, Israeli fighter jets had targeted a Syrian military facility used to manufacture weapons for use by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, an ally of the Assad regime.
According to the army statement, weapons produced at the facility posed an “intolerable threat” to Israel’s security.
“The Israeli and Russian army have a de-conflict system… which has proven itself many times in recent years,” the statement read.
“This system was in use last night as well,” it added.
The army went on to say that initial investigations into the incident had shown that inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft fire had led to the downing of the Russian plane.
“When the Syrian army launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane, Israeli Air Force jets were already back in Israeli airspace,” the statement asserted.
“Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired indiscriminately and, from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” it added.
The Israeli government, the army continued, will share all relevant information with Moscow with a view to ascertaining pertinent facts of the incident.
Early Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that a Russian Il-20 military aircraft -- with 15 servicemen aboard -- had disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea.
The ministry later announced that the plane had been downed accidentally by Syria’s Russian-made S-200 air-defense system.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Syrian air defenses had been trying to repel an attack by an Israeli F-16 when the Russian plane was shot down.