Russia-Syria plane carried “ammunition”..Hezbollah admits launching drone over Israel
A Syrian-bound plane intercepted by Turkey was carrying Russian-made defence equipment destined for Syria’s defence ministry, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.
“Passenger aircraft cannot carry ammunition and defence equipment,” Mr Erdogan said, adding: “Unfortunately there was such equipment on board.”
Turkish jets forced the plane, coming from Moscow, to land in Ankara.
Syria has accused Mr Erdogan of lying, saying the charge “lacks credibility”.
Both Damascus and Russia have denied the plane was carrying illegal cargo and accused Turkey of putting lives in danger.
Tensions were already high between Turkey and Syria, following the deaths of five Turkish civilians by shelling from across the border last week.
Turkey has returned fire, and on Wednesday its top military commander warned Ankara would respond with greater force if the shelling continued.
In Syria itself, a huge explosion has hit near a state security building in the centre of the capital, Damascus.
State media said two people had been injured in the attack, which it blamed on “terrorists”.
The Syrian commercial jet forced to land in Ankara mid-flight between Moscow and Damascus Wednesday evening was carrying munitions for the Syrian Defense Ministry, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Thursday.
“It is absolutely clear who sent the cargo and who was going to receive it. This was munitions from the Russian equivalent of our Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation being sent to the Syrian Defense Ministry,” Erdogan told journalists, referring to the state-run Turkish manufacturer that supplies the country’s army.
“The examination [of the seized cargo] is continuing and the necessary will follow,” the PM added.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry refuted the allegations as “absolutely untrue” in a brief statement on Thursday. Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi stressed that the plane was not carrying ammunition or any other illegal cargo.
Earlier on Wednesday Ankara had sent a diplomatic memo to its Arab neighbor on grounds that the plane was carrying “certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules.”
Syria branded the Wednesday incident “piracy,” and said there was nothing illegal on board the Airbus A-320. The plane operator’s chief Ghaida Abd Al-Latif said their plane was carrying civilian electrical equipment.
Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport said that it had no cargo on the flight.
Russian airport representatives also said that customs and security services did not find anything suspicious in the cargo before the 35-passenger plane was cleared for takeoff. All the relevant inspection documents were passed over to officials for investigation, the Vnukovo Airport press service said.
Military analysts and industry insiders say it is unlikely that Moscow would use a civilian aircraft to send military cargo to Syria.
“Even if it really were necessary to send any military equipment or arms supplies, it would have been done as required by law, not illegally, using a civilian jet,” a top official in Russian’s military export industry told Interfax. “There were no weapons, no systems or components of military equipment on board, and there could never be.”
The leader of Lebanese Shia militant movement Hezbollah has said that his group was behind the launch of a drone shot down over Israel last week.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told the movement’s al-Manar television network that the drone was made in Iran and had flown over “sensitive sites” in Israel.
Israeli fighter planes shot down the drone north of the Negev desert after it entered from the Mediterranean.
Israel’s prime minister has again vowed to defend the country’s borders.
Sheikh Nasrallah said the drone was assembled in Lebanon but made in Iran – a rare reference to his organisation’s military support from Tehran, the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says.
claim and counterclaim over this plane..just another piece of mounting escalation..and hezbollah admitting to a drone..and that it came from iran..is significant..for many reasons.. true or false..