October 29, 2018 / 4:31 PM / 21 days ago

Israel has struck in Syria since Russia plane downed: Israeli official

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has carried out attacks in Syria since the accidental shooting down of a Russian surveillance plane last month, a senior Israeli official said on Monday.

The Sept. 17 downing by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, after Israeli jets attacked a suspected Iranian arms shipment to Syria, caused a diplomatic rift between Israel and Russia, and Moscow blamed Israel for the incident.

The Israeli official did not give details of the nature of Israel’s actions since the shooting down of the IL-20 aircraft near Latakia, in which the crew of 15 were killed, or the number of times it had attacked.

“The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) have attacked in Syria, including after the downing of the Russian plane. Military coordination with the Russians continues as before,” said the senior official, who could not be named.

Israel’s Channel 1 television said one air strike was aimed at an Iranian shipment for Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas of equipment intended to greatly increase the accuracy of their rockets and missiles.

Israel, which has carried out air strikes in Syria many times during Syria’s seven-and-a-half-year-old civil war, said after the Sept. 17 incident it would work to improve “deconfliction” of its missions with Russian forces, but would not halt them.

But since the Russian plane was shot down shortly after Israeli jets attacked a nearby target, there have been no reports of Israeli air strikes in Syria.

The apparent pause raised speculation in the Israeli media that Israel was either holding back at Russia’s request or had paused the attacks over concern that they would fuel further tensions with Moscow.

Netanyahu said earlier this month that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin “soon” to discuss security cooperation. Russia said it had upgraded Syria’s air defenses with the S-300 missile system after accusing Israel of indirect responsibility for the incident.

Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by Mark Heinrich/William Maclean

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