Turkish jet was downed by Syrian missile in June, Ankara says
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Turkish jet was downed by Syrian missile in June, Ankara says

Military probe rules out Damascus claim of anti-aircraft fire as cause of crash

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

A Turkish military investigator with remains from the downed Turkish reconnaissance jet. (photo credit: image capture from YouTube clip uploaded by Today's Zaman)
A Turkish military investigator with remains from the downed Turkish reconnaissance jet. (photo credit: image capture from YouTube clip uploaded by Today's Zaman)

A Syrian missile was fired at a Turkish Air Force jet flying though Syrian airspace in June, causing the plane to plummet into the sea, a Turkish military probe reported on Wednesday.

Investigation of the wrecked reconnaissance aircraft found that the plane’s radar warning receiver registered a missile signal before the crash, and that traces of chemicals used in missiles were found on the fuselage.

“Parts of the retrieved plane wreck were taken through metallurgic examination, and traces of potassium chlorate, which is used as an oxidizing agent in missile fuels and as the main substance in missile warheads, were found splashed on the plane’s fuselage,” the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman quoted the report as saying.

The June 22 incident strained Turkish-Syrian relations amid heightened tension over Damascus’s use of violence against civilians in the now 19-month civil war.

Contrary to claims by the Syrian military in the wake of the incident that the plane was shot down by anti-aircraft guns while flying low over Syrian territory, no evidence of anti-aircraft gun damage was found on the aircraft.

What was clear from the report, however, was the military prosecutor clearly blamed Damascus for shooting down the plane and killing its two pilots. The report ruled out the possibility of technical failure leading to the plane’s crash.

The Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported that the RF-4 was “hit by a surface-to-air missile” before crashing into international waters off the Syrian coast on June 22.

Today’s Zaman, however, reported that the “Military Prosecutor’s Office blamed the plane’s crash on a missile attack by the Syrian forces, although it revealed that the aircraft did not crash as a result of being directly hit by a missile.”

“The bottom line is that the investigation suggests that our plane was downed by blast impact from a Syria-fired missile on the left rear side of the aircraft,” the Anadolu news agency quoted the military prosecutor as saying.

“The missile detonated just behind and to the left of the plane. The blast from the explosion caused the plane and the pilots to lose the capability to continue a stable flight. The plane continuously lost altitude as it banked left, until it crashed into water in a position slightly tipped to the left with the plane’s nose pointing up.”

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