Israel showed Russia proof Syria to blame for downed plane — Israeli military

Russia has said Syria shot the plane down shortly after Israeli jets hit a target in the area. (File photo / Reuters)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Israel showed Russia proof Syria to blame for downed plane — Israeli military

  • Israel provided Moscow with proof it was not responsible for the downing of a Russian plane in Syria
  • Fifteen Russian crew were killed when the IL-20 surveillance plane crashed near Latakia

JERUSALEM: Israel has provided Moscow with proof it bore no responsibility for bringing down a Russian plane in Syria, an Israeli military official said on Friday.
Fifteen Russian crew were killed when an 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 a target in the area.
Initially the incident appeared likely to cause friction between Israel and Russia, with the Defense Ministry in Moscow accusing Israel of indirectly causing it. But President Vladimir Putin later called it “a chain of tragic, chance events.”
An Israeli delegation led by its air force chief this week presented Moscow with its findings on the incident, “including recordings of the conversations between the Israeli air force and the Russian air force component in Syria,” said the Israeli official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
“We proved how the Syrian reckless anti-air fire was the direct cause of hitting the Russian aircraft. They fired quite recklessly and irresponsibly and unprofessionally into the air long after our planes were no longer there,” the official said.
More than 20 Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired during the incident, the official said.
“Our Russian counterparts had a few questions, those questions were answered,” the official said. “Our impression is that the discussions were professional and that the information was well accepted.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry was initially critical of Israel, saying it had only given Moscow one minute’s warning before its jets attacked, putting the Russian aircraft in danger of being caught in cross-fire.
But the Israeli official said: “We definitely gave a warning, a time much longer than one minute. We acted in accordance with the standard operating procedures that are in place with the Russian military.”
Any dispute between Israel and Russia could lessen Israel’s ability to carry out air strikes inside Syria against what it regards as the greatest threat to Israel’s security from the country’s civil war — build-ups of Iranian forces or those of Iran’s ally, Hezbollah.
Since intervening in Syria in 2015, Russia has usually turned a blind eye to Israeli attacks. Israel has launched about 200 such raids in the last two years, Israeli officials say.
The Israeli official said the meeting in Moscow was an opportunity to improve the mechanism the countries have been using to avoid unintended confrontations.
“But our freedom of movement is paramount ... The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) will continue to implement our strategic interests,” the official said.


Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

Updated 23 March 2019
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Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

  • According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment
SOUSA, SYRIA: US-led warplanes bombed the north bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria on Friday to flush out holdout militants from the last sliver of their crumbling “caliphate.”
Friday’s bombardment ended two days of relative calm on the front line in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had paused its advance while it combed a makeshift militant encampment, which it overran on Tuesday.
An SDF official said warplanes of the US-led coalition resumed strikes on suspected militant positions before dawn on Friday.
Top SDF commander Jia Furat said his forces were engaging with the Daesh fighters on several fronts while the coalition warplanes provided air support.
The coalition said the “operation to complete the liberation of Baghouz is ongoing.”
“It remains a hard fight, and Daesh is showing that they intend to keep fighting for as long as possible,” it said. The SDF launched what it called its “final assault” against the rebels’ last redoubt in the village of Baghouz on Feb. 9.
Finally on Tuesday, they cornered diehard fighters into a few acres of farmland along the Euphrates River, after forcing them out of their rag-tag encampment of tents and battered vehicles.
The six-month-old operation to wipe out the last vestige of Daesh’s once-sprawling proto-state is close to reaching its inevitable outcome, but the SDF has said a declaration of victory will be made only after they have completed flushing out the last tunnels and hideouts.
According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment. They are hiding along the bank of the Euphrates River as well as at the base of a hill overlooking Baghouz, he told AFP.
“In around one or two days, we will conclude military operations if there are no surprise developments,” he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Daesh holdouts were hiding in underground tunnels and caves in Baghouz.
SDF official Jiaker Amed said several militants want to surrender but are being prevented from doing so by other fighters.
“We are trying our best to wrap up the operation without fighting, but some of them are refusing to surrender,” he said.
More than 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have quit the last Daesh redoubt since Jan. 9, according to the SDF.
They comprise 5,000 militants and 24,000 of their relatives as well as 37,000 other civilians.
The thousands who have streamed out have been housed in cramped camps and prisons run by Kurdish forces further north.
On Wednesday night, around 2,000 women and children from Baghouz arrived at the largest camp, Al-Hol, which is struggling to cope with the influx of tens of thousands of people, many in poor health.
Since December, at least 138 people, mostly children, have died en route to Al-Hol or shortly after arrival, according to the International Rescue Committee.
Daesh declared a “caliphate” in June 2014 after seizing a vast swathe of territory larger than Britain straddling Iraq and Syria.
The loss of the Baghouz enclave would signal the demise of the “caliphate” in Syria, after its defeat in Iraq in 2017.
But Daesh has already begun its transformation into a guerilla organization, and still carries out deadly hit-and-run attacks from desert or mountain hideouts.
In a video released on Daesh’s social media channels on Thursday, militants vowed to continue to carry out attacks.
“To those who think our caliphate has ended, we say not only has it not ended, but it is here to stay,” said one fighter.
He urged Daesh supporters to conduct attacks in the West against the enemies of the “caliphate.”
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted following the repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.