A Russian reconnaissance aircraft was brought down by a Syrian missile over the Mediterranean early Tuesday, killing all 15 people on board, the Russian defense ministry says. The ministry blames Israel for the crash, saying the plane was caught in the crossfire as four Israeli fighters attacked targets in northwestern Syria, the AP reports. The Russian military said the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft was hit 22 miles off the coast as it was returning to its home base nearby. "The Israeli pilots were using the Russian aircraft as a shield and pushed it into the line of fire of the Syrian defense," ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
Russia said it would make an "appropriate response" to Israel. "As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished," Konashenkov said, per Radio Free Europe. "This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership." The military said Israel did not warn it of its operation over Latakia province until one minute before the strike, which did not give the Russian plane enough time to escape. A recovery operation in the Mediterranean Sea is underway, Konashenkov said. For several years, Israel and Russia have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria. (Read more Syria stories.)