News Brief — March 23, 2014
A Syrian military plane was shot down on Sunday in the northern border region close to Turkey where foreign-backed militants have been battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted local residents as saying the plane was brought down by shooting from the Turkish side of the border. Al Manar, the television station of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, said two rockets were fired from Turkish territory.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan subsequently confirmed that his country’s armed forces had shot down a Syrian jet claiming that it had violated Turkish airspace.
“A Syrian plane violated our airspace. Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard,” he told a rally of his supporters in northwest Turkey.
Syria has yet to respond to Erdogan’s statement but had earlier issued an official statement implicating Turkey in the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Turkey’s “unjustified military aggression against Syrian sovereignty in the Kasab border region over the past two days proves its implication in the events in Syria”, the foreign ministry in Damascus said.
In recent weeks President Assad’s forces have made considerable headway against the foreign backed militants, forcing them on the retreat as the Syrian army recaptured towns formerly held by the militants.
The downing of the Syrian jet follows the capture by militants on Friday of a border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border.
The Syrian jet is thought to have been downed during an operation when President Assad’s forces launched an offensive to recapture the crossing, supported by warplanes that were carrying out air strikes near the crossing.