It is now official. Syria has confirmed that it did shoot down a Turkish F-4 jet yesterday. Turkey promises to "determinedly take necessary steps" in response.
Digital Journal reported yesterday on the shooting down of a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet by Syrian forces. At that stage, nothing was completely confirmed.
According to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he could not confirm whether the plane had been shot down or had crashed. He also could not confirm reports that Syria had apologized for downing the jet.
Syrian state news agency, SANA, reported that according to a Syrian military spokesman, an unidentified aerial object violated the country's airspace and was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery. The aircraft crashed into Syrian territorial waters west of Om al-Tuyour village in Lattakia province, 10 kilometers from the beach.
The spokesman added that the aircraft turned out to be a Turkish fighter jet, and was "dealt with in accordance with Syrian law."
The spokesman further stated that Turkey and Syria had started a joint coordinated naval rescue operation.
After a two hour meeting with members of the cabinet and the military, the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement that Syria was responsible for the downed jet.
"As a result of information obtained from the evaluation of our concerned institutions and from within the joint search and rescue operations with Syria, it is understood that our plane was brought down by Syria," the office stated.
According to Reuters, the statement reads, "Turkey will present its final stance after the incident has been fully brought to light and decisively take the necessary steps."
The statement further said that a search and rescue operation for the missing aircraft parts is still underway. Turkish state television reports that rescuers have already found an ejector seat and a parachute in the water, but no signs of the plane itself.
There are still conflicting reports over the fate of the aircraft's pilots, with Syrian sources stating they had been captured, and Turkish media reporting that they had been rescued.
According to the BBC's Istanbul correspondent, Jonathan Head, with the recent breakdown in relations between Turkey and Syria over the Syrian conflict, this incident is likely to provoke a serious crisis. He says that much will depend on whether or not the Turkish pilots have survived. If they have not, public anger might push the Turkish government into some kind of punitive action against Syria.
This article will be updated as soon as confirmed news is received as to the fate of the two pilots.