Russian Federation says ‘misled’ by Israel in plane downing over Syria

Iraqi activist Hajjar Youssif hands out masks to protesters for a demonstration last week in Basra

Iraqi activist Hajjar Youssif hands out masks to protesters for a demonstration last week in Basra

Just minutes earlier Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Russian Federation will transfer the S-300 air defense system to its ally Syria within weeks, among a raft of measures to improve the country's ability to detect and repel Israeli air strikes.

The decision came a week after Israeli F-16 planes struck targets near Moscow's air base in Latakia, western Syria, prompting the Syrian government to respond. During a Syrian air defenses counterattack, the Russian spy plane was shot down by an S-200 anti-aircraft missile and its 15 crew members were killed.

Russian Federation indirectly blamed Israel, which had launched airstrikes against Syria in the area where the plane was operating, for the error. In fact, the Israeli jets were in Latakia, in Syria's west and used the Russian Il-20 as a shield to bypass Syrian government forces' radar systems, the spokesman said. Syrian air-defense command units will be connected directly to Russian command posts with automated systems that at present are deployed only in Russian units, he said.

In the phone call, initiated by Assad, Putin spoke of "additional measures to ensure the safety of Russian troops in Syria and to reinforce the country's air defense system", the Kremlin said in a statement.

In denying responsibility for the incident, Israel blamed Syria and its allies Iran and Hezbollah.

For its part, Israel is wary of Iran's growing influence in Syria. Mr Putin then sought to defuse tensions, mentioning "a chain of tragic accidental circumstances". Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and a former colonel in the Russian army, said the S-300 would make Israel "more careful in the vicinity of Russian assets".

The deterioration in relations between Russian Federation and Israel, along with a transfer of the S-300 system, complicates Israel's efforts to contain Iranian influence.

"We are convinced that these measures will calm down some hotheads and keep them from careless actions which pose a threat to our troops", Mr Shoigu said.

"Supplying S-300 increases risk by unprofessional Syrian operators first and foremost to the Russian air force, to Israel, the United States and the coalition as well as to civil aviation".

According to Haaretz, Israel fears that Russian Federation can influence its military activity through demanding greater warning time, deciding to close the airspace or requiring more advanced air defense systems be put in place as a signal to Israel, among other things.

For several years, Israel and Russian Federation have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria.

Israel and Russian Federation have been embroiled in a tense diplomatic row since the downing of the Ilyushin Il-20 electronic surveillance aircraft last week, during an Israeli air strike near the Syrian city of Latakia.

The transfer may lead to Israel being more cautious in the short term, Zalzberg said. Sly reported from Beirut.

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