Turkey’s deputy prime minister says Turkish warplanes have shot down a Syrian military helicopter after violating the country’s airspace.
A Syrian MI-17 helicopter was downed over the southern province of Hatay after it strayed two kilometers into Turkish airspace, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters on Monday.
Arinc said there was no information about the fate of the crew because the helicopter fell on Syrian soil. He also noted that Turkish air defense had repeatedly warned the Syrian helicopter to leave Turkey’s airspace before being hit by missiles.
Unconfirmed reports say militants fighting against the Syrian government have killed the helicopter’s two pilots. There are also reports suggesting that one of the pilots was captured by militants while the second pilot’s fate is unknown.
The Syrian government has yet to comment on the incident.
The shooting comes almost a year after Syrian air force shot down a Turkish warplane after it entered Syria’s airspace. The plane fell in Syrian waters and near the village of Um al-Touyour. Ankara, however, insisted at the time that the plane had entered Syrian airspace but quickly left when warned, and was shot down in international airspace several minutes later.
Following this incident in June 2012, the Turkish government changed its military rules of engagement towards Syria. From that time on, every military element that approached the Turkish border from Syria would be considered as a threat.
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