MIDEAST >Turkey shoots down Russian jet for airspace violation near Syrian border


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Two Turkish F-16's shot down a Russian-made SU-24 jet on Nov. 24 near the Syrian border after it violated Turkish airspace, presidential sources said.

The Turkish General Staff said two Turkish F-16s shot down a plane on Nov. 24 at around 9:20 a.m. near the southern province of Hatay’s Yayladağı district after the plane violated the border between Turkey and Syria, remaining in Turkish airspace for five minutes despite being warned 10 times. 

The statement said the jet, of “unknown nationality,” was downed within the rules of engagement after it failed to heed the warnings. 

Meanwhile, a Turkish official told Reuters that two warplanes approached Turkish border and were warned before one of them was shot down. 

U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also confirmed that Turkey warned the pilots repeatedly before shootdown but the pilots did not respond. 

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke with Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu regarding the incident, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Turkey was scheduled to consult with NATO and the United Nations on the developments on the border with Syria, the PM’s Office added.

Akar also informed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the incident, NTV reported.

A security meeting was scheduled to be held at the presidential palace on the evening of Nov. 24 under the leadership of Erdoğan. Davutoğlu, Akar, National Intelligence Agency (MİT) head Hakan Fidan and some ministers were scheduled to attend the meeting. 

Davutoğlu touched upon the issue during Nov. 24 Teacher’s Day, saying Turkey had the right to respond to violations of its airspace. 

“The entire world should be aware and sure that we’ll do whatever necessary in order to ensure our country’s peace and security within all this ring of fire, in order to maintain peace in Turkey and around,” Davutoğlu said.

Davutoğlu also made a call to “stamp the fire in Syria out,” but warned Turkey’s message would be clear on incongruous acts.

Hours after the Russian jet was downed, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane had been attacked when it was 1 kilometer inside Syria and warned of “serious consequences” for what he termed a “stab in the back.” 

“We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today,” Putin said, adding that the pilots and the plane was not in any way a threat to Turkey. 

He also accused Turkey of purchasing oil produced by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Meanwhile, a government official has said Turkey’s downing of the war plane was not directed against any specific country and was fully in line with its military rules of engagement.

“This isn’t an action against any specific country: Our F-16s took necessary steps to defend Turkey’s sovereign territory,” the official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Nov. 24. 

“In line with the military rules of engagement, the Turkish authorities repeatedly warned an unidentified aircraft that they were 15 kilometers or less away from the border. The aircraft didn’t heed the warnings and proceeded to fly over Turkey. The Turkish Air Force responded by downing the aircraft,” the official said.

“In the past, we have made public our military rules of engagement and reminded our counterparts that any violation of Turkish airspace would trigger the actions prescribed by the military rules of engagement,” the official added.

It was the first time a NATO member had downed a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s.  
Meanwhile, the United States said the downing of the Russian jet was an issue between the two states involved. 

“This is an incident between the Russian and the Turkish governments. It is not an issue that involves the [U.S.-led coalition operations],” U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military campaign against ISIL, told a Pentagon briefing, speaking via video conference from Baghdad on Nov. 24. 

“Our combat operations against ISIL continue as planned and we are striking in both Iraq and Syria,” Warren said. 

Warren also confirmed Turkish claims that Turkish pilots warned a Russian jet 10 times but failed to get a response, before shooting the jet down. 

 "We were able to hear everything that was going on, these [communications] were on open channels," Warren said.

Meanwhile, Syria denounced the incident as a “flagrant aggression against Syrian sovereignty,” state media reported, Agence France-Press reported.

The incident “demonstrates without a doubt that the Turkish government takes the side of terrorism,” state news agency SANA said, citing a military source.

Turkish General Staff released the radar trace analysis of the Russian jet. The analysis shows the plane entered the Turkish airspace over the southern province of Hatay while circling over northern Syria.


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