"As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian servicemen were killed, which is absolutely not in keeping with the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership," said Russian Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the Russian military, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
A US official with knowledge of the incident said Monday that the Syrians were trying to stop a barrage of Israeli missiles when the Russian aircraft was hit. A second official confirmed that Israel was responsible for the missile strikes on Syria.
Russian state news agency TASS reported that a Russian IL-20 military aircraft disappeared over the Mediterranean on Monday. TASS, citing the Russian defense ministry, said the aircraft went off the radars during an attack by four Israeli F-16 aircraft on Syrian targets in the province of Latakia, where Russia has based much of its military presence, including aircraft.
The Russian military said Israel notified the Russian side about the planned operation only a minute in advance, and that Israeli controllers would have seen the Russian plane, which was coming in to land, RIA reported.
The US found out about the incident because Syrian forces broadcast an emergency search and rescue radio call on an international frequency. The US then got a direct message from another country about the type of aircraft and circumstances of the incident.
The US official with knowledge of the incident would not identify that country, but it is likely that Russia is the only nation that would know exactly what type of aircraft was shot down.
A spokesman for the Pentagon told CNN that the missiles were not fired by the US military but would not speak as to who was behind the strikes.
The aircraft was shot down by an anti-aircraft system the Russians sold to the Syrians several years ago, the US official said. The Syrian air defense network in western Syria is very densely populated with anti-aircraft missile and radar systems.