A Russian military Il-20 aircraft with 14 service members on board went off the radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Air traffic controllers at Khmeimim Airbase “lost contact” with the aircraft on Monday evening, during an attack by Israeli F-16 fighters on Latakia, said the MoD. The plane was 35km off the coast of Syria when it vanished.
Russian radars also registered the launch of missiles from a French frigate in the Mediterranean on the evening of September 17.
A total of 14 people were on board the plane at the time of the disappearance. A search and rescue mission is underway.
The Ilyushin 20 (IL-20) surveillance turboprop plane is an Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) platform, equipped with a wide range of antennas, infrared and optical sensors. The aircraft's SLAR (Side-Looking Airborne Radar) and the plane's satellite link allows the Russian military to monitor Syrian skies in real time.
An hour-long attack on Latakia began around 10pm local time, and targeted a power station as well as two facilities belonging to the Syrian military. Syrian officials said the attack was “foreign” and came “from the sea,” but could not initially confirm rumors that Israel was behind it. Seven people were injured in the attack, according to Syrian officials.
While the Russian military said it recorded four F-16 Israeli jets over Syria at the time of the attack on Latakia, the IDF has refused to comment on the report.
Despite the fact that Israel rarely acknowledges striking specific targets inside Syria, earlier this month the IDF admitted hitting at least 202 “Iranian targets” in the country. Overall, Israel has launched 792 bombs and missiles at Syria since 2017, arguing that the strikes were necessary to prevent Iran from setting up bases in the country in order to stage attacks against the Jewish state.
As Israel continues to claim the right to intrude in Syria, despite repeated condemnations from Damascus, France had said that it will join the US-led campaign to strike Syria again if there are reports of chemical weapons use.
Over the last few weeks, Moscow has been beating drums about a false-flag chemical attack that is being prepared by the notorious White Helmets and jihadists in Idlib province in order to frame government forces. Such a provocation, the Russian military argues, will be used to trigger a US-led attack against Damascus.
The attack on Latakia came just hours after Russia and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of Idlib province, which is the last remaining stronghold of anti-government militants, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (also known as the Jabhat Al-Nusra).