DAMASCUS/ANKARA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Damascus slammed Turkey for shooting down its warplane "in the Syrian territory" on Sunday afternoon, saying it reflected Turkey's involvement in supporting the armed terrorist groups in the war-torn country.
"In another flagrant aggression that proves the involvement of the Turkish government in supporting the armed terrorist groups, the Turkish air defenses have downed a Syrian war jet, which was haunting down terrorist gangs inside the Syrian territories in the border town of Kasab," the Syrian army said in a statement.
It said the warplane was targeting armed militant groups that sneaked from Turkey into Kasab in Syria's coastal province of Latakia when it was shot down by the Turkish air defenses. It added that the pilot successfully ejected.
However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Syria of "heavy" response if its airspace is violated. He said Turkish air forces shot down a Syrian plane near the Turkish- Syrian border.
"I congratulate our air forces, our pilots. From now on, our slap will be heavy," Erdogan said at a rally in Turkey's western province of Kocaeli.
The Syrian plane violated Turkish border and Turkish F-16 fighter jets shot down the Syrian aircraft, Erdogan was quoted as saying by local NTV news channel.
The plane crushed on the buffer zone between the borders separating Syria's Latakia region and Samandag town of southern Hatay province, private Dogan News Agency reported.
Turkey closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012 as relations between the two countries deteriorated over the Syrian war. The Syrian government accused Turkey of providing shelter for rebels who are fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which was denied by Ankara.
Battles between the Syrian army and jihadist-dominated militant groups have raged in Kasab since Friday, when the Nusra Front fighters and other jihadist groups launched a wide-scale offensive on the border town.
The Syrian authorities said armed militant groups infiltrated Kasab from Turkey on Friday, and since then, intense clashes have been raging between the Syrian forces and the rebel groups.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the " unprecedented and unwarranted aggression that has been carried out by Turkey on the Syrian town of Kasab over the past two days reflects the actual involvement of the Turkish government in Syria since the beginning of the crisis and until now."
The ministry said "this escalation came as part of the aggressive policies of the government of (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and its overt support to the armed terrorist groups, which have used the Turkish territories as a launching pad for their attacks on Syria."
The ministry urged the Turkish government to "halt its aggression" with the respect of the international laws and "strop involving the Turkish army in an unwarranted adventures."
Meanwhile, the Syrian rebels said they captured a border point between Syria and Turkey, however Syria's official media said the Syrian troops unleashed a counter-offensive against the militant groups backed by heavy artillery.
The rebels, mainly the Nusra Front, have opted to open the northern front to cover for their losses in central and southern Syria, where the Syrian troops have stripped the rebels of key towns and cities in the central province of Homs and the countryside of Damascus near the border with Lebanon.
They said they are fighting in northern Latakia to open a route to the sea to receive weapon shipments after the Syrian troops had deprived them of key smuggling routes from Lebanon in the south.
ANKARA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- The Turkish army said in a statement on Sunday that it warned the Syrian warplanes four times of border violation before an F-16 fighter jet shot one down.
When two Syrian MIG-23 warplanes approached, the Turkish air forces warned them four times that they have approached 10 sea miles to the Turkish border, said the statement issued by the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces. Full story