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Israeli Air Force commander to arrive in Moscow on Thursday to hand data on Il-20 crash

Israeli Air Force Commander Amikan Norkin will head to Moscow to hand over the information on the Ilyushin Il-20 warplane crash in Syria, Israel’s Defense Forces said on Wednesday.

"On Thursday morning, a delegation of Israel’s Defense Forces headed by Major General Amikan Norkin, the Air Force Commander, will head to Moscow after the downing of a Russian plane by a Syrian missile on Monday night," says the communique circulated by the military.

"The Air Force commander and the delegation will present data on the incident in all aspects, including preliminary information and main conclusions of the investigation," it says.

The Israeli delegation will inform Russia "of Iran’s ongoing attempts to supply Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement with strategic weapons and to gain a military foothold in Syria," the press service said.

Besides Norkin, the Israeli delegation will include Brigadier General Erez Maisel, the head of the Israel Defense Forces' Foreign Relations Division, and officers of the Intelligence Division, Air Force and Operations Command, the army said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in Tuesday’s phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Vladimir Putin gave his consent to the arrival of experts headed by the Israeli Air Force commander, who are to hand their data on the Il-20 crash to Moscow. Peskov has pointed out that the Russian president relies on the information provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, but then added that Israel’s information will be also examined by Russian experts.

Tragedy over the Mediterranean

The Russian defense ministry said earlier that a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 plane that was flying back to the airbase at Syria’s Hmeymim crashed over the Mediterranean Sea late on Monday. According to the ministry, four Israeli F-16 fighter jets were delivering airstrikes on Syrian targets in the Latakia governorate at the moment. The ministry said the Russian Il-20 was shot down by Syria’s air defense over the Mediterranean Sea because Israel’s F-16 fighter jets used it as cover.

The Israeli command centers and the F-16s’ pilots could not but see the Russian plane, which was approaching the runway from an altitude of five kilometers. Nevertheless, they deliberately staged this provocation, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, adding that Israel’s actions are considered in Russia as hostile.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday, stating that Israel is solely to blame for the downing of Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea. The irresponsible actions by the Israeli Air Force led to a tragedy, which claimed the lives of 15 Russian military personnel, he said.

Later in the day, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released a communique expressing sorrow for the death of the Il-20 crew members.

[Source: Itar Tass, Tel Aviv, 20Sep18]

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