Turkish armed forces said on Sunday that it shot down a Syrian fighter jet after the warplane strayed into Turkish airspace but Syria accused Turkey of blatant aggression, saying the plane was over Syrian territory at the time.
Two Syrian MIG-23 aircrafts flew towards the Turkish border and were warned several times, one aircraft changed course but the other did not, Turkish military said. The Syrian plane entered Turkish airspace at Yayladagi, east of the Kasab border crossing, one Turkish F-16 patrolling the area launched a missile at the Syrian plane and it crashed in Syrian territory near the border, Turkish armed forces said.
The incident occurred six months after (in September 2013) Turkey shot down a Syrian military helicopter near the border. Turkey said the Syrian helicopter violated its air space. The helicopter crashed inside Syria after it was hit by missiles fired from Turkish warplanes. Turkey had changed rules of engagement after Syria had shot down a Turkish warplane in 2012. Turkey had said in 2012 that any Syrian element approaching the border would be deemed a threat and be treated as a military target.
The shooting down of the Syrian jet came as the government warned last week it may consider a limited military action to protect a historic tomb in Syria near Aleppo. The Tomb, near the Turkish border, is considered as Turkish territory according to a treaty signed between Turkey and France in 1921 but it has no strategic/military importance. Less than 30 Turkish soldiers are stationed at the tomb. The leader of the main opposition party CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, recently said he received information that PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan may order a military incursion into Syria before the March local elections to divert the public’s attention from the graft scandal that targeted Erdogan’s inner circle.
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