News emanating from Turkey has confirmed Syria has shot down a Turkish fighter plane. There are conflicting reports on if Syria has apologized over the incident but the governments of the two countries are in contact regarding the issue, and to search for the missing pilots.
The F4 Phantom was patrolling the tense Turkish-Syria border when it went it was shot down, shortly after take off. The facts on the incident remain unclear but there is a possibility the Turkish jet was shot over Syrian territorial waters. Israeli media has reported the plane was hit by a Russian-made medium range anti-air Pantsyr-1 missile, which were recently supplied by Moscow. The Turkish planes are suspected of carrying out reconnaissance flights over the Russian bases in Syria. These bases are located at the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia and are used for supplying weapons to Libya.
After the incident, Prime Minister Erodgan convened an emergency security meeting with top military advisers and intelligence chiefs. Turkish President commented on Saturday that it’s not possible to ignore that Syria has shot shown a Turkish fighter jet. “It is not possible to cover over a thing like this, whatever is necessary will be done,” Gul was quoted to have stated by the news agency Anatolia.
The incident has escalated that already tense situation over Syria. Turkey is believed to be supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition and there are also reports that rebels belonging to the Free Syrian Army are being trained in camps inside Turkey, near the border.
According to a recent report that appeared in The New York Times, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are financing the weapons for the rebels. The arms are transferred via Turkey with assistance from CIA, using an undercover network that involves Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey has officially denied any involvement in arming and supplying the rebels in Syria.
According to Turkish officials, up to 30,000 people and 12 Syrian generals have defected to Turkey so far. Many opposition commanders are also based in Turkey. On Friday a Syrian jet and its pilot had defected to Jordan, raising alarm bells in Syria.
If Turkey comes under attack, being a member of NATO, it can invoke Article 5 to summon all 28 countries to respond to it. Turkey has threatened to do so in the past, but the response so far is believed to be mellow. However, that could change in the near future, as matters worsen in Syria.