Fatal Il-20 Shoot-Down – A Red Line
EDITORIAL | 21.09.2018 | WORLD / Middle East

Fatal Il-20 Shoot-Down – A Red Line

Heartfelt condolences go to the families, friends and compatriots of 15 Russian servicemen who lost their lives this week in Syria.

These brave comrades were serving in the call of duty to protect an allied country, Syria, from an armed aggression.

Several more Russians have already given their lives during the past three years since Russia responded to a request from the Syrian state to help that country fend off a foreign-backed assault.

An investigation is underway to establish what exactly happened when the Ilyushin IL-20 reconnaissance plane was shot down on Monday night, as it was coming into land at the Russian airbase at Hmeimim in northwest Syria. The plane was lost some 20 kms off the Syrian coast, with all 15 service onboard killed.

There appears to have been an accidental shoot-down by Syrian air defenses using an outdated Soviet-made S-200 system.

Russia’s defense ministry has blamed the Israeli air force for conducting an attack on Syria at the time, which led to the fatal shoot-down. It appears that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets in the vicinity confused Syrian air defenses to target the Russian recon plane. It remains to been if the act was deliberate, putting the Russian servicemen in danger.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has subsequently expressed regret over the incident. The Israelis have promised to provide air flight data to the Russian side to help the investigation into how the IL-20 was shot down.

The onus is on the Israelis to account for the incident. Because at this stage it looks like their warplanes were using the Russian plane as cover for their aggressive actions, apparently firing missiles at Syrian targets in Latakia and Tartous.

Whatever the Israelis may say, the fact is that Syria once again was being targeted by their warplanes.

Over the past months, hundreds of such attacks have been carried out by Israel on Syria. That is unacceptable under international law, no matter what minutiae Tel Aviv presents regarding the latest incident.

Moreover, NATO warships and warplanes have also been targeting Syria, with impunity for the past four years. On the latest incident of the shooting down of the IL-20, a French navy frigate was recorded by Russian military as firing missiles at Syria. The French deny any involvement in a coordinated aggression with Israel over the incident.

But let’s get this clear. Neither NATO nor its partner Israel have any right to target Syria, no matter the pretext, even if that is stated as “fighting terrorism”.

Russia and Iran are the only foreign countries which have any legal mandate to mount operations in Syria, given the formal request made to them by the Syrian government. All other states conducting military actions in Syria are doing so unlawfully. That is clearly the case in regard to Israel which doesn’t even bother to obscure the fact under the faux cover of “fighting terrorism” used by the United States and the other NATO powers.

Israel has been attacking Syria relentlessly in what is nothing short of aggression against that country.

The disgraceful fact is that 15 Russian servicemen lost their lives this week because NATO and Israel are grossly violating Syria’s sovereignty. The so-called “fog of war” excuse is completely irrelevant.

It seems abundantly clear that the deaths of Russian military were as a result of a provocation by NATO and Israel to derail the efforts by Syria and Russia to bring an end to the eight-year war in that country.

Only hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded a de-escalation deal with Turkey to pacify the last-remaining militant stronghold in Syria’s Idlib northwest province, then we saw the shoot-down of the Russian recon plane. Several commentators have viewed this as a provocation to try to sabotage that deal.

Why? Because the war in Syria has always been about a US-led covert effort for regime change in Damascus against President Bashar al-Assad. The US and its NATO, Israeli and Arab partners have covertly deployed terrorist mercenaries for that objective. But that criminal war has been thwarted by Russia’s principled intervention three years ago in support of the Syrian state.

Evidently, the “coalition” of foreign aggressors against Syria do not want to see the war ended on Syria or Russia’s terms. The aggressors are obviously trying to prolong the war. Instead of defeated terrorists on the ground, NATO and its partners now appear ready to provide warplanes and warships to do the job that their terror proxies failed at.

The NATO powers and their Israeli partner appear to be itching to start a larger war in Syria that would embroil Russia. It is unacceptable that 15 Russian servicemen lost their lives this week in a situation where NATO and Israeli unlawful aggression on Syria is recklessly increasing risk of deaths and a catastrophic confrontation.

International law has been abandoned. The United Nations is pathetically derelict in condemning or sanctioning aggression. Russia therefore should close Syrian airspace by installing upgraded S-300 or S-400 air defenses.

Syria is under the protection of its ally Russia. Henceforth, NATO and its Israeli partner must know that further aggression against sovereign Syria must stop. The installation of upgraded Russian air defenses would be warning enough for all aggressors to back off.

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