Syria's Assad blames Israel over downing of Russian plane

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The Israeli Army said Major General Amikam Norkin and other top officers will travel to Moscow to "present the situation report of the event regarding all aspects, including the pre-mission information and the findings of the [Israel Defense Forces] inquiry".

The Russian plane carrying 15 service members disappeared from radars on Monday night as four Israeli jet fighters were attacking state institutions in Syria's Latakia Province, which is home to Russia-run Khmeimim airbase.

Israel has vowed to stop its arch-foe Iran, which backs the Assad regime, from entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria.

Proving just how unsafe the situation remains in Syria-where the U.S., Russia, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, France and other nations are all maintaining military operations amid a civil war that has dragged on for almost seven years-the Kremlin on Tuesday is blaming Israel after the Syrian military reportedly downed a Russian military aircraft by mistake, killing all 15 airmen on board.

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On Wednesday, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah said the Shiite movement would stay in Syria "until further notice". It expressed "sorrow" for the Russian deaths, but insisted the Russian plane had been felled by "extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (surface-to-air missile) fire". It added that Israeli planes were already in Israeli airspace when Syria fired the missiles that hit the Russian plane.

Russia on Tuesday summoned the Israeli ambassador after a Russian plane was shot down over Syria, an incident Moscow has blamed on the Israeli air force.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed regret over the deaths, and "offered to send the Israeli Air Force commander to Moscow to deliver all the necessary details" for the investigation, a statement by his office said.

He also pledged to beef up security for Russian forces in Syria, which three years ago stepped in to support Assad whose grip on power had been weakened by rebels and jihadist fighters.

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"We will remain there even after the Idlib accord", Nasrallah said, referring to a Russia-Turkey deal to prevent a Syrian regime offensive on the country's last rebel-held stronghold.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that "tragic accidental circumstances" led to the downing by Syria of a Russian warplane with 15 people on board.

Despite calling it a "friendly fire" incident, the Defense ministry held Israel responsible.

SANA added that "the regrettable incident was a result of the Israeli usual revelry which always uses the dirtiest means to achieve its low purposes and carry out its aggression in our region".

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