Israel’s army is said to have misused the passenger plane as a shield against the Syrian air defense. Representatives of Russia and Turkey will meet for talks on Saturday due to the tensions in Idlib.

The Russian army has accused Israel of deliberately endangering a passenger plane with 172 occupants during airstrikes in Syria. On Thursday, an Airbus A 320 was almost hit by the Syrian air defense, the Ministry of Defense said in Moscow. During the Israeli airstrikes on a suburb of Damascus, the passenger plane was approaching nearby. Moscow accused Israel of using the plane as a shield to obstruct the Syrian air defense’s response.

The jet, which was on its way from Tehran to Damascus, was in the “death zone”, the Russian ministry said. Only the rapid reaction of the air traffic controllers in Damascus prevented the launch. The aircraft was checked and landed at the Russian airbase Hmeimim. Hmeimim is located around 300 kilometers north of the Syrian capital near the Mediterranean city of Latakia. 

The Russian base Hmeimim near the Syrian Mediterranean city of Latakia (Photo: picture-alliance / dpa / TASS / M. Lystseva)The Russian base Hmeimim near the Syrian Mediterranean city of Latakia 

Israeli air forces use civilian aircraft to protect their aircraft and prevent counter-attacks by the Syrian air defense, the ministry said. Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against the rulers of Bashar al-Assad, Iranian targets, and militias allied with Iran since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The attacks on Thursday, which killed 23 government and Iranian militia fighters, according to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, have not yet been confirmed by the Israeli army.

Due to the escalating tensions in the northwestern Syrian rebel area Idlib, a delegation from Russia is to travel to Turkey on Saturday. The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu announced this. If necessary, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could also meet afterward. The two had already agreed on that, Cavusoglu added.

A Turkish military convoy passes the Syrian city of Binnish in the Idlib province (Photo: Getty Images / AFP / A. Ketaz)A Turkish military convoy passes the city of Binnish in the Idlib province

Russia is the protective force of the Syrian government, which is on the rise in the Idlib province. Idlib is the last major rebel area in Syria after almost nine years of civil war. Turkey supports the rebels in the conflict. It had agreed on a de-escalation zone with Russia. An estimated three million people live in the region. Syrian government forces recently launched an offensive against the Turkish-backed Islamist militias in Idlib with Russian support. There were violent skirmishes between the Syrian and Turkish armies on Monday, killing more than 20 people. According to the UN, more than half a million people have fled the fighting in the region since the beginning of December.


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