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Russia Today — Sept 24, 2018

Data captured by Russia’s S-400 system proves Israeli jets were responsible for the downing of the Russian plane, the Defense Ministry said, adding that the Syrian missile changed its course shortly before hitting the Il-20.

Data gleaned from the S-400 air defense system deployed at the Russian Khmeimim air base in Syria’s Latakia province has revealed that the Syrian anti-air missile was, in fact, targeting an Israeli F-16 jet before it abruptly altered its course and eventually hit the Russian aircraft. This, and the position of all the aircraft at the moment of the September 17 incident proves that an Israeli jet was de facto using the larger Il-20 as a cover, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov told journalists at Monday’s news briefing.

Radar data of the Russian S-400 air defense system showing position of 4 Israeli F-16 jets (yellow), the Syrian air defense missile (red), and the Russian Il-20 plane (green) at the time of its downing on September 17, 2018 © Ministry of Defense. Click to enlarge

The radar images revealed at the briefing “clearly showed the direction of the flight of the S-200 missile launched by the Syrian air defense system, as well as the locations of the Russian and Israeli aircraft,” Konashenkov said, adding that “it is quite clear that the missile was targeting the Israeli jet.”

However, the missile then suddenly changed its course and “locked on a target with a larger radar cross-section and slower speed,” which was the Russian reconnaissance plane coming in for landing. The Israeli jet, which effectively used the Il-20 as a cover from the attack, then also abruptly changed its altitude and the flight direction, Konashenkov said.

The Israeli aircraft then continued to patrol the area off the Syrian coast, the radar data shows, refuting the claims by the Israeli Defense Forces that their planes had already returned to Israeli airspace at the moment of the incident.

Today’s data does not just suggest but prove that the blame for the tragic [downing] of the Russian Il-20 airplane lies entirely with the Israeli Air Force,” the major general told journalists. All Israel’s “claims about its alleged noninvolvement in this tragedy that claimed lives of 15 Russian servicemen are false,” he added.

Earlier, the Russian MoD presented a minute-by-minute timeline of the Il-20 downing. It said that the Israeli Air Force gave the Russian side less than a minute’s warning before their air raid, leaving virtually no time for any safety maneuvers. Moreover, the Israelis misinformed the Russians about the location of their targets.

Israel expressed its condolences to Russia over the tragedy but repeatedly denied responsibility while pinning the blame on Damascus. On Sunday, the Israeli Defense Force said that the Israeli planes “did not hide behind any aircraft and… the Israeli aircraft were in Israeli airspace at the time of the downing of the Russian plane.”

Following the incident, Russia decided to supply an S-300 air-defense system to the Syrian military. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the move an “adequate” measure, aimed at “preventing any potential threat” to the lives of Russian service personnel deployed to Syria, in phone exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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