A report claims that leaked Syrian intelligence documents reveal that the pilots of the Turkish F-4 jet downed by Syria survived only to be executed by Bashar al-Assad.
Reports from Al Arabiya and Haaretz state that the pilots survived the initial crash but were killed by Syrian regime forces who were allegedly acting "on information and guidance from the Russian leadership".
The downing of the Turkish F-4 Phantom II jet by Syrian forces back in June 22 led to considerable acrimony and tension between the neighbouring states. Turkey accused Syria of downing the jet over international waters whilst Syria claims that the jet was downed by its air defence shortly after it violated its airspace. It has been speculated that the F-4 was brought down after an anti-aircraft missile exploded near it and simply knocked it out of the sky.
The crew of the aircraft in question, Air Force Captain Gokhan Ertan and Air Force Lieutenant Hasan Huseyin Aksoy, were killed, however the Turkish and Syrian military authorities haven't given substantial explanations on the exact causes of their deaths. Turkey's military stated that it had found the pilots bodies at the bottom of the Mediterranean.
Al-Arabiya however offers an alternative narrative based on these documents it has announced it possesses, documents which among other things claims that the, "Two Turkish pilots were captured by the Syrian Air Force Intelligence after their jet was shot down in coordination with the Russian naval base in Tartus."
This striking report indicates among other things that the two Turkish pilots not only survived the initial crash, but were detained and were inevitably to be killed. "A need to eliminate the two Turkish pilots detained by the Special Operations Unit in a natural way" was cited in one file. The need for their bodies "to be returned to the crash site in international waters" was also mentioned (all of which was "Based on information and guidance from the Russian leadership"), as was a speculative message to the Turkish government, warning against an hostile reaction to the downing of the jet, hinting at a Syrian ability of organizing and supporting Turkey's staunch enemy, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PPK), in a campaign against the Turkish state.
Allegedly the pilots were initially been treated in accordance with the standard procedures taken with regard to war prisoners. Hence, they were interrogated by the Syrian authorities so they could determine what role if any they had with regard to Turkey's broader policy of supporting the opposition to the Assad regime. Assad himself was even allegedly considering -- before he inevitably killed them -- handing over the F-4 crew to its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, so they could be used as bargaining chips at a later date.
Al Arabiya has claimed to possess several hundred leaked documents which allegedly reveal details regarding both Iranian and Russian involvement in support of the Assad regime in the violent and ongoing conflict.