The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 21st September 2018

Syria calls for Israel to be held accountable

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

SYRIAN air-defences beat back an Israeli missile attack on Lattakia on Monday; but a Russian electronic surveillance aircraft was downed by friendly fire as it was attempting to land at the nearby Russian base south east of Syria’s major Mediterranean port. All 14 members of the Russian crew perished when the aircraft was hit by a Syrian missile.

At the United Nations HQ in New York, Syria called on the Security Council to “take firm and immediate measures to hold Israel accountable for its terrorism and crimes in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the provisions of international law”. Bashar al-Jaafari said that the latest Israeli aggression on Syria comes as a completion to its aggressive policies and an attempt to provide moral support to terrorist groups that had suffered defeats by Syrian Arab Army.

The Russians say the Israelis used the Russian aircraft as cover for their attack on an industrial complex that the Zionists claim was supplying arms for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah resistance movement in Lebanon that Israel fears. Others suspect that the Israelis and their masters in Washington were seeking to derail the Russian—Turkish deal over the rebel-held Idlib enclave that has postponed a Syrian offensive in return for the demilitarisation of the province which has been protected by the Turkish army for the past three years.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Tuesday that: “The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defence forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

Konashenkov pointed out that the Israeli aviation control systems and pilots knew that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation”. The Russian general said the Kremlin reserved its right to respond accordingly to this “act of hostility”.

In Tel Aviv, the Israeli government has tried to pin the blame on the “incompetence” of the Syrian air-defence corps. But the Israeli Defence Forces expressed their sorrow “for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane” and Zionist leader Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his “regret” at the incident during a phone call to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In the Kremlin, Putin said the downing of the plane “looks like a chain of tragic circumstances because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet”. Moscow is launching an investigation into the matter and boosting security for Russian troops in Syria. Although Putin didn’t elaborate on extra security measures, he did state that they are “steps that everyone will notice”.

Putin expressed his condolences to relatives of the victims: “When people die, especially in such tragic circumstances, it is always a disaster. It is a disaster for all of us, for the country and for the loved ones of our fallen comrades.”

At the same time, Putin rejected comparison of the crash of the Il-20 in Syria with the shooting down of a Russian jet by a Turkish warplane in northern Syria in November 2015: “This is a different situation because the Turkish fighter deliberately shot down our aircraft. Here, it looks like a chain of tragic accidental circumstances because an Israeli plane did not shoot down our plane.”

Former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told the Russian media that the whole thing may have indeed been a tragic accident that many would say happens in war.

Putin’s response shows that he “wants to maintain at least a veneer of pleasantness in Russian relations with Israel. And this veneer has after all brought benefits, even quite recently, with the climb-down of the Israelis over the advance of Syrian forces towards the Golan. The Israelis, after much huffing and puffing, allowed themselves to be prevailed on by the Russians to pipe down. I think Putin has this kind of thing in mind with his conciliatory statement.”

“But revenge is a dish best served cold,” Ford said, and “Israel will have a price to pay in terms of new Russian rules of engagement” in Syria.