Russian Jet Shot Down Over Syria By Turkey; May Escalate Middle East Tensions
On Tuesday, a Russian fighter jet was shot down near the Syrian border by Turkey after repeated warnings the aircraft had violated Turkish airspace. The downed plane is the “most publicly acknowledged” incident between a NATO member nation and Russia in over 50 years, Reuters reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the plane was inside Syrian airspace, but Turkey claims its airspace had been repeatedly violated and many warnings were issued before Turkish forces brought the plane down. Putin has warned their will be “serious consequences” for the incident, what he has termed a “stab in the back.” “We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today,” said Putin. Russia’s defense ministry said the plane, a SU-24 fighter jet, “was exclusively over Syrian territory” for its entire flight. Turkish military officials deny those reports. Turkey claims it warned the aircraft 10 times in a span of five minutes it had violated its airspace. When the pilot refused to answer, the military shot the plane down. “The data we have is very clear. There were two plans approaching our border, we warned them as they were getting too close,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters. “We warned them to avoid entering Turkish air space before they did, and we warned them many times. Our findings show clearly that Turkish air space was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly,” the official added. The incident, another official said, was not directed toward a specific nation, but only in response to protecting Turkey’s airspace. Initial reports indicate both pilots of the aircraft were killed by rebel forces after parachuting to the ground, but The Guardian is reporting a Turkish official has denied the pilots were killed and the country is working to “secure their release from Syrian rebels.” The incident adds tension to an already volatile situation in Syria, where Russia has bombed numerous targets in support of President Bashar al-Assad, while the U.S. has supported anti-government rebels in the region trying to end Assad’s brutal authoritarian reign.