Israeli officials said yesterday it would not halt strikes on Syria but would do more to "deconflict" them with Russian forces, after Moscow accused the country of "irresponsible and unfriendly actions" that led to Syrian ground fire mistakenly downing a Russian fighter jet. Syria, on the other hand, has offered condolences in a telegram sent to Moscow, Kremlin said yesterday.
Fifteen Russian crew were killed when the IL-20 surveillance plane crashed near Latakia in northern Syria on Monday. Russia has said Syria shot the plane down shortly after Israeli jets hit the area, and accused Israel of creating the dangerous conditions by failing to give sufficient advance notice.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin initially described the downing as a "tragic chance," Moscow has made its anger clearer later on.
Israel has struck Syria scores of times during its seven-year civil war to prevent what it says are "transfers of weapons to Hezbollah fighters and other Iranian allies." Russia has largely overlooked the sorties, which the Israelis say pose no direct threat to Moscow's ally, Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad.
Israel dispatched its air force chief to brief Moscow about the incident yesterday. Expressing regret at the loss of life, Israel denied wrongdoing and blamed what it called wanton Syrian anti-aircraft fire after its jets had withdrawn back over the border.
Naftali Bennett, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, said "deconfliction mechanisms" will be improved, referring to a Russian-Israeli hotline designed to avoid inadvertent clashes with forces Moscow sent to Syria as part of a military intervention mounted in 2015.
"We will of course strengthen these mechanisms. We will do everything so as not to harm anyone we do not intend to, God forbid," Bennett told Army Radio in a separate interview.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said yesterday that it had received a telegram from Assad in which he expressed his condolences over a Russian military plane being downed near Syria earlier this week, the Interfax news agency reported. Interfax cited Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying yesterday that the Kremlin had received a telegram from Assad about the incident. Syria's SANA news agency reported on Wednesday that Assad had sent a telegram to Moscow saying he was sorry about the death of Russian military service people, but blamed Israel for the downing.In a recent comment to Daily Sabah on the consequences of Israeli actions and how the Kremlin would handle the matter going forward, Mesut Hakkı Caşın, a professor in the Department of International Relations at İstinye University, had said that Russia will likely answer Israeli aggression in the near future directly or through Iran. It may also see the conflict spill over into the Mediterranean.
"I think Netanyahu will be the losing party in this incident. He met Putin twice and demanded the retreat of Iranian paramilitary groups operating near Golan Heights. However, the Israeli PM reneged on his promise to not engage the Russian military in Syrian airspace," Çaşın said.