Russia said Syrian antiaircraft missiles shot down a Russian Il-20 military reconnaissance plane early Tuesday as it was preparing to land at Khmeimim air base on Syria's Mediterranean coast. Russia blamed Israel for the friendly fire incident, which killed all 15 Russian service members on board, and threatened to retaliate with an "appropriate response."
Israel was conducting airstrikes on Syrian targets, and "the Israeli pilots were using the Russian aircraft as a shield and pushed it into the line of fire of the Syrian defense," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. "We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile." Konashenkov said a recovery operation is underway in the Mediterranean, where the plane went down.
Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Israel maintain a special hotline to prevent their aircraft from clashing over Syria, but Russia said Israel did not warn it of this attack until one minute before the strike, preventing Russian aircraft from getting out of the way in time. Israel, which typically does not claim responsibility for its strikes on Syria, said it does not respond to "foreign reports." Peter Weber