Russian Military Aircraft Vanishes Near Syria, Rescue Operation Launched

President Erdogan and President Putin agreed to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib

Russia's defence ministry announced that one of its Il-20 turbo-prop planes used for electronic reconnaissance disappeared at about 11pm, Moscow time, and may have been shot down.

The defence ministry in Moscow said the aircraft was returning to the Russian-run Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province when, at about 11:00 pm Moscow time (20:00 GMT) on Monday, it disappeared from radar screens.

The Israeli military said: "We don't comment on foreign reports".

CNN, citing an unnamed US official, said the aircraft was shot down by Syrian antiaircraft artillery, and it appeared to have been inadvertent.

A search and rescue mission is now underway.

The official also said that there were 14 servicemen on board and their fate is unknown.

The Syrian government regularly accuses Israel of targeting its military positions.

Russia's TASS news agency quoted officials as saying: "The trace of the Il-20 on flight control radars disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Lattakia province". Sean Robertson tells VOA on Syrian claims of engaging missile targets over #Latakia "I can unequivocally say this is not us".

France was also reportedly firing missiles from a Frigate off the coast, although its military has denied any involvement in the disappearance.

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Missiles were fired from the sea at several locations in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia on Monday but were intercepted by air defences, Syrian state media said.

Russia's military operation in Syria, which began in late 2015, has turned the tide of the conflict in favour of Moscow's ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, in his fight against rebels.

The zone will be established by October 15 and be 15-20 kilometres deep, with troops from Russian Federation and NATO-member Turkey conducting coordinated patrols, President Vladimir Putin said at the end of a more than three-hour meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi.

President Putin said the two leaders agreed to create a 15 to 20 kilometre wide demilitarised zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by October 15.

The strikes came within hours of Russia and Turkey announcing a joint agreement to forestall a Russian-backed government offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib that had threatened to trigger a major Western intervention and a potential confrontation between the world's two major nuclear powers, the United States and Russia.

Moscow has previously lost aircraft during its Syria campaign.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that some 140 Iranians and their allies have been killed in suspected Israeli air strikes over the last five months.

Russian Federation and the Syrian regime have previously boasted about their air defense capabilities.

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