September 19, 2018 / 7:49 PM / 25 days ago

Israel to present findings in Moscow over downing of Russian plane

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s air force chief will on Thursday present findings in Moscow related to an incident in which a Russian military plane was downed off Syria’s coast, Israel’s military said.

FILE PHOTO: A Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft takes off from Central military airport in Rostov-on-Don, Russia March 6, 2014. Picture taken March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

Israel on Tuesday blamed Syria, saying its anti-aircraft batteries “fired indiscriminately” and failed to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.

The army said Major-General Amikam Norkin and other senior officers would “present the situation report of the event regarding all aspects, including the pre-mission information and the findings of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) inquiry.”

The incident initially appeared likely to cause friction between two countries that back opposing sides in Syria’s complex civil war, with the head of the defense ministry in Moscow accusing Israel of indirectly causing it.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Air Force Major-General Amikam Norkin is seen during the International Convention of Air Force Commanders, at the Tel Nof airforce base in central Israel, May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

But President Vladimir Putin, who spoke to his Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Tuesday, then called it “a chain of tragic chance events” although he added that Russia needed to “seriously get to the bottom of what happened”.

Israel’s military said on Tuesday its fighter jets had targeted a Syrian facility it said was about to transfer weapons to Hezbollah on behalf of Iran, and that when the plane was downed, the Israeli jets “were already within Israeli airspace”.

Netanyahu said Syrian forces were to blame and offered Russia “all necessary information” to investigate.

Since intervening in Syria in 2015, Russia has usually turned a blind eye to Israeli attacks. Israeli officials say Israel has carried out about 200.

The military statement said the Israeli delegation would “present the continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to Hezbollah .... and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams and John Stonestreet

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