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Turkey Downs Syrian Warplane After 'Airspace Violation'

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the country's military downed a Syrian warplane for crossing into Turkish airspace.
Posted at 3:39 PM, Mar 23, 2014

Turkey has warned Syria before that a violation of its airspace would warrant a "heavy response." And now Ankara has made good on that promise: shooting down a Syrian fighter jet. (Via BBC)

Speaking at a rally of supporters, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the military's actions. The Wall Street Journal quotes Erdogan's announcement: (Via Jewish News One)

"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."​

​A spokesperson for Syria's military confirmed the incident, but says the aircraft was in Syrian territory when it was attacked.

And the BBC reports that according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K. based activist group, the downed jet appears to have landed on the Syrian side of border. Damascus has accused Turkey of a "blatant aggression." 

It's just the latest in series of hostile interactions between the former allies who share more than 550 miles worth of borderland. 

The previous warmly relationship between the two countries went cold in summer 2011 after Turkey's attempts at a political resolution to the country's brewing unrest ultimately failed. Prompting Erdogan to publicly call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ouster. (Via Euronews)

But the situation escalated after Syrian forces downed a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean that it claimed breached Syrian airspace. Turkey maintains it was a reconnaissance plane and that it was hit while in international airspace, a violation of international law. (Via RT)

That provoked Turkey to revise its rules of engagement with Syria, which from then on declared that any Syrian military element approaching the Turkish border would viewed as a legitimate target. 

That revision was put on display last September after a Turkish fighter jet took down a Syrian helicopter when it strayed into Turkey's airspace. More recently, Turkey has accused Syria of harassing its jets by locking missile radars on the planes during border patrols. (Via ITN)

CNN's Ivan Watson says the latest development comes at a peculiar time, given that Sunday is the latest day Erdogan, who is facing a corruption investigation, is allowed to campaign before this month's upcoming elections. 

IVAN WATSON: "Shooting down a warplane from the neighboring country of Syria in the midst of this really adds an unsettling wrinkle to the political drama unfolding right now in Turkey."

Turkey has taken in hundreds of thousands of some 2.5 million refugees displaced during Syria's three year long conflict. One report from the latest incident says the Syrian pilot was able to eject before his plane was destroyed.