We may have confused Turkish jet for an Israeli one, Syrian minister claims

Omran al-Zubi says Friday’s downing of an F-4 was a mistake, and that Israeli planes are ‘welcomed by fire’

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of a Turkish F-4 fighter jet (CC BY-Jerry Gunner, Flickr)
Illustrative photo of a Turkish F-4 fighter jet (CC BY-Jerry Gunner, Flickr)

Syrian soldiers who shot down a Turkish military jet on Friday may have confused it for an Israeli plane, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zubi claimed on Wednesday.

“Turkish planes and Israeli planes look alike,” the minister told the Turkish news station A Haber.

Although the Turkish and Israeli air forces both purchased McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom fighter jets from the United States, the IAF decommissioned its last F-4 in 2004.

Al-Zubi also noted that the “Zionist country” was in the area, and that the Syrian military is on alert for Israeli aircraft.

“If an Israeli plane enters Syria, it is welcomed by fire. [The Turkish plane] might have been believed to be an Israeli plane; we did not want to take down a Turkish plane,” he said.

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Friday’s incident occurred off the coast of the northern Syrian city of Latakia, approximately 150 miles north of Israel’s border with Lebanon.

Al-Zubi’s statements came a day after the Turkish military reinforced its Syrian border amid rising tensions with Damascus. Large numbers of troops — including at least 15 long-range artillery pieces and tanks — moved to the Syrian frontier from the eastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

Syria had previously said the downing of the Turkish jet was an accident caused by the “automatic response” of an officer commanding an anti-aircraft position. Turkish government officials called the incident a “hostile act” and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Tuesday that the Turkish military will target any Syrian military elements who approach its border.

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