Turkey shoots down Syrian plane

The Turkish military announced that it has shot down a Syrian plane that strayed over its air space, ratcheting up tensions along the border where Syrian rebels mix with refugees and are sheltered by the Turkish government.


Turkey's armed forces shot down a Syrian plane on Sunday after it crossed into Turkish air space in a border region where Syrian rebels have been battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"A Syrian plane violated our airspace," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally of his supporters in northwest Turkey.

"Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard,"

The rebels have been fighting for control of the Kasab crossing, the border region, since Friday, when they launched an offensive which Syrian authorities say was backed by Turkey's military.

Syria said Turkish air defenses shot down the jet while it was attacking rebel forces inside Syrian territory, calling the move a "blatant aggression".

State television quoted a military source as saying the pilot managed to eject from the plane. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said initial reports from the area said the plane came down on the Syrian side of the border.

Al Manar, the television station of Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah, said two rockets had been fired from Turkish territory at the Syrian jet.

Israel has recently fired on Syrian positions - a move that has also raised tensions in the region. If there's one thing you can credit Prime Minister Erdogan with doing, it's keeping a lid on the conflict so that it doesn't escalate to a regional war. Syrian provocation has been extreme at times and Erdogan has done well to resist the temptation to solve his domestic political troubles by escalating the conflict with Syria.

How long that stays true remains to be seen. Lebanon is a powder keg and if the internal conflicts in that country burst into civil war, no one can predict what might happen next.

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