A photo taken on July 23, 2006 shows an Russian IL-20 (Ilyushin 20) plane landing at an unknown location. (AFP photo)
JERUSALEM, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli military on Sunday rejected the findings presented by the Russian Defense Ministry which accused the Jewish state of direct responsibility for downing the Russian plane in Syria.
The Israeli statement was issued a few hours after the Russian Defense Ministry presented its latest findings on the accident in Latakia last Monday, accusing the Israeli military of "criminal negligence."
Chief spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said in a press briefing that Israel provided false information and used the Ilyushin Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft as a "shield" against the Syrian air defense system missiles.
The plane with 15 people on board was mistakenly downed by a Syrian missile, when Israel was conducting an airstrike on Syria's Latakia province at the same time.
"We believe that the Israeli Air Force and those who were making decisions about these actions are fully to blame for the tragedy that happened to the Russian plane," Konashenkov told reporters.
In the Israeli response, issued by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the military charged that the "IAF (Israel Air Force) did not hide behind any aircraft and the Israeli aircraft were in Israeli airspace at the time of the downing of the Russian plane."
The military said it will not stop its attacks against Iranian targets in Syria. "IDF will continue to operate in accordance with the directives of the Israeli government against Iran's incessant attempts to establish itself in Syria and arm Hezbollah with lethal and accurate weapons," the statement read.
The military also stressed the importance of the continuation of the coordination between the Russian and Israeli armies' moves in Syria.
Israel and Russia have a so-called "deconfliction mechanism" operated over the past years to avoid firing on each other forces in Syria.
An Israeli military delegation led by air force chief Amikam Norkin returned to Israel on Friday, after presenting detailed findings from its probe into the incident, including classified materials, to senior Russian military officers in Moscow. Israel hoped the delegation would convince the Russians that it was not responsible for the accident.
Israel has carried out some 200 airstrikes over the last 18 months, claiming that the attacks were aimed to prevent Iranian weapons convoys and stop Iran from establishing a military foothold in Syria.