Israeli air force chief visits Moscow

The commander of the Israeli Air Force, Maj.-Gen. Amikan Norkin, will arrive in Moscow this morning to discuss the events of Monday night when a Russian aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles.

Norkin will set out Israel’s view of what happened, including the information Israel had prior to its airstrikes on Latakia and the main findings of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) inquiry into the incident. The IDF said that Norkin will also share intelligence about Iran’s ongoing efforts to consolidate its military presence in Syria and smuggle strategic weapons to Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Tuesday, as did Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. President Vladimir Putin later told reporters that the incident was “the result of a chain of tragic circumstances”. Netanyahu expressed sorrow over the deaths of the Russian soldiers, but stressed that “responsibility for downing the plane falls on Syria”.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft systems, but accused Israel of indirectly causing the incident by using the Russian plane as cover to fire missiles toward military targets in Syria. Israel blamed Syria, saying its anti-aircraft missiles “fired indiscriminately” and failed to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.

Syria said the incident was a result of Israel’s well-known arrogance and lack of restraint, adding that Israel “always uses the dirtiest means to achieve its low purposes and carry out its aggression in our region”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed sorrow for Russian deaths, saying the incident “reminds us of the need to find permanent, peaceful and political resolutions to the many overlapping conflicts in the region,” and that it brings to light “the danger of tragic miscalculations in Syria’s crowded theatre of operations”.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said yesterday that Israel must stop its “intolerable” attacks in Syria. He denied that the target of the Israeli strikes were advanced weapons due to be supplied to Hezbollah and accused Israel of using Iran and Hezbollah as an “excuse” while really aiming to degrade Syria’s military capabilities.

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