Qatar praises Turkey-Russia deal to 'demilitarize' Idlib


Proving just how unsafe the situation remains in Syria-where the U.S., Russia, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, France and other nations are all maintaining military operations amid a civil war that has dragged on for almost seven years-the Kremlin on Tuesday is blaming Israel after the Syrian military reportedly downed a Russian military aircraft by mistake, killing all 15 airmen on board. The chief military investigation department of the Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case into the crash of Russia's Il-20 plane above the Mediterranean Sea, committee spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko told reporters.

"The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air-defence forces", Russian media reported the Russian Defence Ministry as saying.

The U.N. special envoy for Syria says a major military offensive in the last major rebel-held area in Idlib has been averted by an agreement between the leaders of Russian Federation and Turkey "and that is very good news".

The Russian Defence Ministry said that Israel only informed them of a planned operation one minute beforehand, breaking the protocol previously in place as it was not enough time to get the plane to safety.

Multiple countries have military operations underway around Syria, with forces on the ground or launching strikes from the air or from ships in the Mediterranean.

The incident late Monday was the most deadly known case of friendly fire between Syria and its key backer Russian Federation since Moscow´s game-changing 2015 military intervention in the war-torn country.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets were targeting a Syrian military facility involved in providing weapons for Iran's proxy Hezbollah militia, noting that it warned Russian Federation of the coming raid in line with de-confliction agreements. The Russian Ministry said the meeting was to do with the loss of the Russian plane.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also voiced sorrow at the deaths but blamed the Syrian government and its main regional allies Iran and Hezbollah.

Foreign powers involved in the protracted conflict - including Israel and Russian Federation - operate hotlines to exchange operational details to avoid one side accidentally attacking the other's forces.

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There is no point going through this season saying, "come on, come on, we have to win something, we have to win something". We don't play Champions League or what? "No one has to tell us what we have to do", he went on.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the accord should avert an all-out military assault on the rebel stronghold and "provide reprieve for millions of civilians".

US officials said USA forces had no role to play in the incident.

Throughout the fighting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained continuous contact with Russian Federation.

Later, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the shoot down "the result of a chain of tragic and chance circumstances,"Reuters notes".

The plane crashed only hours after the leaders of Russian Federation and Turkey reached an agreement to avert an all-out offensive by Syrian government forces to retake Syria's last remaining rebel stronghold in Idlib. "And I understand about 14 people were killed and that's a very sad thing but that's what happens", he said.

In Damascus, Syria's foreign ministry welcomed the agreement, while vowing that it will continue the fight against "terrorism until liberating the last inch of the Syrian territory, whether through military operations or through local reconciliations".

Russian Federation says its air strikes only target "terrorists", but activists have said they mainly hit mainstream rebel fighters and civilians.

Putin said the decision was to establish by October 15 a demilitarized area 15-20 km (10-12 miles) deep along the contact line between rebel and government fighters.