Israel will not conceal any information about operations by its Air Force at the moment of the Ilyushin-20 incident and will share all data concerning the plane’s loss with the Russian side, for which an Israeli military delegation under Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin went to Russia on September 20, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the official army radio Galei Zahal in an interview, TASS reports.
"We act openly. We’ve told the Russian side we are prepared to share all information, all data," Lieberman said, adding that normally Israel did not disclose the details of operations by its Air Force.
"This time the Israeli Air Force commander went to Russia. We have nothing to hide," Lieberman said. "We continue a very open and honest dialogue with Russia. Apparently in this case we have a tragic coincidence of circumstances, but entire responsibility rests upon the Syrian military."
"Israel will continue to do everything in its powers to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria militarily," he added.
Lieberbman recalled that Israel "expressed regret over the death of 15 Russian military servicemen," which he blamed on Syria, and in response to the the interviewer’s question confirmed he had a conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. He reiterated that Israel was not interfering in the "internal conflict in Syria" but at the same time "could not afford to let Iran turn Syria into a forward base for attacks on Israel and a logistic center from where modern armaments would be smuggled to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Tragedy over Mediterranean
Earlier, the Defense Ministry said that at 23:00 Moscow time on September 17 contact was lost with Russia’s Ilyushin-20 when the plane returning to the air base Khmeimim was 35 kilometers away from Syria’s coastline. The plane disappeared from the radar screens while four Israeli F-16 fighter planes were attacking targets in Syria’s Latakia province.
The Russian Defense Ministry later said the plane had been shot down by Syria’s air defense. The Israeli air pilots used the Ilyushin-20 as a cover, thus exposing it to missiles launched with the S-200 system, the Defense Ministry said. It is certain that Israeli command centers and F-16s’ pilots "could not but see the Russian plane, because it was approaching the base from an altitude of five kilometers." Nevertheless, they deliberately staged that provocation, Konashenkov said, adding that Russia interpreted Israel’s actions as hostile.
The press-service of the Israel Defense Forces issued a communique to express regret over the death of the Ilyushin-20 crew.