Syria crisis: Tensions rise after Turkey shoots down Syrian warplane

Turkey, once an ally of Syria, has emerged over the past three years as one of the main backers of Syrian opposition fighters trying to remove President Bashar Assad from power

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The Independent Online

Turkey’s armed forces shot down a Syrian plane on Sunday after it crossed into Turkish airspace in a border region where Syrian rebels have been battling against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

“A Syrian plane violated our air space,” the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told an election rally of his supporters in the north-west of the country.

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

The rebels have been fighting for control of the Kasab crossing in the border region since Friday when  they launched an offensive that, according to Syrian authorities, was backed by Turkey’s military.

Syria said that Turkish air defences shot down the jet while it was attacking rebel forces inside Syrian territory and called the move “blatant aggression”.

State television quoted a military source as saying that the pilot managed to eject from the aircraft.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based  activist monitoring group, said that 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, reported that two rockets had been fired from Turkish territory at the Syrian jet.