The destruction of a Russian warplane en route to Hmeimim Airbase from a reconnaissance mission by Syrian friendly fire has made international headlines this week. The tragedy has drawn controversial reactions in the mass media, including in Israel; some local outlets don't rule out a "complex stratagem" plotted by the Israeli military, while others blame the incident entirely on the Assad forces.
In an op-ed piece for The Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman blames the incident on the lack of communication between those involved in the Syrian conflict. However, he claimed there was a sense in the statement that Israel could have intentionally created a "complex stratagem" near Latakia to confuse the Syrian military. He cited Moscow's allegations that Israel had given Russian an advance warning just one minute before the attack, which didn't give the IL-20 time to descend and land at the Russian airbase.
He concluded that the Latakia incident had posed a risk to the "delicate balance" between Israel and Moscow in Syria. "The death of Russian servicemen cannot be ignored by Moscow and Russia shows that it doesn't want to accept that this was a terrible mistake, but rather sees the airstrikes as endangering Russian lives."
Israel Today argued that Russia's reaction to the downing of the plane shows that Russian President Putin "will not ignore the death of 15 of his servicemen."
Haaretz's Anshel Pfeffer, meanwhile, suggested that the crash was a "screw-up between the Russian and Syrian allies," but yielded that it could have been Israel's late notification that was partly to blame for it. He insisted that Israel was unlikely to seek to risk its de-confliction agreements with Russia in Syria. Anyway, he claimed, Israel would "have to take the rap in public" and to "limit itself" in the coming weeks and months.
The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot insisted that the responsibility for the tragedy rests with the Syrian military, who had been "negligent in every direction." The newspaper went on to criticize allegations of provocation and irresponsible action against the IDF as "baseless."
The Il-20 recon aircraft with 15 servicemen on board was downed off the Syrian coast while en route to Russia's Hmeimim Airbase late on Monday. The plane crashed while four Israeli F-16 aircraft were launching a missile attack on Syrian targets in the province of Latakia.
Addressing the crash on Tuesday, Russia's Defense Ministry accused the Israeli military of deliberately creating a dangerous situation by using the Russian aircraft as a shield against Syrian air defense systems. The Israeli Defense Forces responded to the allegations by blaming the incident on the Assad forces, acknowledging that Israeli jets had indeed targeted Syrian facilities. The IDF claimed that the targeted facilities were producing weapons to be transferred to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah on behalf of Iran and to be used against Israel.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Israel hadn't downed the Russian plane and called the fatal crash a tragedy caused by a "chain of traffic accidental circumstances."