Ankara: Turkish warplanes downed a Syrian jet on Sunday after it crossed into Turkey’s airspace, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
“A Syrian plane violated our airspace,” Erdogan said during an election rally in Kocaeli province, east of Istanbul. “Turkish F-16s took off and shot it down.”
The Syrian jet crashed inside Syria, across from Turkish border town of Yayladagi, state-run TRT television said. The jet’s pilot survived, Syrian state television said, criticizing Turkey’s support for rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Since Syrian forces downed a Turkish reconnaissance plane in the eastern Mediterranean in June 2012, killing two pilots, Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to attack any Syrian forces violating their shared border. Turkish jets shot down a Syrian helicopter in September also for violating its airspace. Turkey has also fired guns in response to deadly shells that hit Turkish frontier towns and villages as Syrian government forces fought rebels along the border area in the past. Three mortars fell near Yayladagi on Sunday, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.
“Our slap will be heavier if you violate my airspace again,” Erdogan said Sunday.
Turkey fired tank shells and artillery into Syrian territory over the past two days, the official Syrian Arab News Agency said Sunday, citing unidentified officials at the ministry of foreign affairs. Turkey hasn’t responded to the Syrian allegations.
Frictions between Turkey and Syria have also intensified in recent days over a tomb in Syria belonging to an ancestor of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. In the Netherlands on Sunday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Turkey would defend the burial site of Suleyman Shah against any attack.