March 24, 2014 - 09:15 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Turkish military shot down on Sunday, March 23, a Syrian aircraft after it violated Turkish airspace on the Turkish-Syrian border near Yayladağı, a district in southern Hatay, leading to concerns over possible government efforts to cover up a corruption scandal that has deepened with leaked voice recordings ahead of local elections scheduled for March 30, Today’s Zaman reports.
According to a statement by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), two Syrian MIG-23 warplanes were warned four times when they began flying close to Turkish airspace. After the warnings, one of the Syrian aircraft started to leave the area but the other warplane began flying over Turkish airspace near the border outpost in Yayladağı at about 1:13 pm.
When the Syrian warplane flew 1.5 kilometers westward within Turkish airspace, one of two Turkish F-16 fighter jets fired a missile at the Syrian warplane in line with Turkey's rules of engagement. The Syrian warplane was shot down and fell in Syrian territory 1.2 kilometers away from the Turkish border.
The TSK statement said a Turkish F-16 jet shot down the Syrian aircraft at 1:14 pm and the aircraft fell in the Syrian town of Kassab in the coastal province of Latakia.
“A Syrian plane violated our airspace. Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap will be hard. Now in your presence, I congratulate the General Staff, the Turkish military and our air forces,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a rally in the northwestern province of Kocaeli on Sunday.
President Abdullah Gül, who was in the Netherlands for a conference, called Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel to congratulate him and his staff. He reportedly said the TSK showed Turkey's determination to protect its borders.
Concerns over a possible Turkish military intervention in Syria have emerged following news of clashes between an al-Qaeda splinter group and other Syrian opposition groups in the area. Responding to reports, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said Turkey would retaliate in the event of an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah irrespective of where the attack comes from, according Today’s Zaman.
During a televised interview late on Wednesday, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu warned against any military incursion into Syria ahead of the elections. According to the CHP leader, Erdoğan aims to divert the public's attention from a sweeping graft scandal that has implicated Erdoğan and his family.