Turkey fired on and downed a Syrian jet fighter operating along the Turkey-Syrian border on Sunday afternoon.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed that the Syrian plane was shot down by a Turkish Air Force F-16, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Syria also confirmed its plane was shot down by Turkey, calling the act “blatant aggression that proves Erdoğan government’s involvement in supporting terrorist groups,” state media quoted a military source saying. The pilot of the downed plane ejected successfully, state TV said.
A second Syrian plane was fired on by Turkish anti-aircraft installations but escaped, the paper said. The planes were bombing rebels attempting to gain control of the Kasab border crossing, AFP reported.
According to the NGO Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, “Turkish air defenses targeted a Syrian fighter bomber as it struck areas of the northern province of Latakia. The plane caught fire and crashed in Syrian territory.”
“I congratulate our chief of general staff and our pilots,” Erdoğan was quoted saying.
The battle for Kasab, a town with a large Armenian community near the Turkish border, has been raging for three days, and has involved an increasing number of both government and rebel troops, including forces affiliated with al-Qaeda, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Rebels have been on the offensive since Friday. Syrian state television quoted an unnamed military official as saying that government forces inflicted “heavy losses” among rebels. State TV said the rebels entered Syria from Turkey.
The Observatory also reported heavy fighting in the contested northern city of Aleppo, which is divided between rebel and government forces.
The Turkish-Syrian border has seen several instances of cross-border fire and altercations since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. Ankara has maintained support for the opposition, kept its border open and allowed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees into Turkish territory. It is widely believed that several Syrian opposition groups maintain bases of operation in the Turkish border region.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.