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.
One of the aircrafts moved away before entering the Turkish airspace, while the other violated some one kilometer into the Turkish border near Yayladagi town of southern Hatay province, the statement said.
An F-16 fighter jet, which was on duty in the region, fired against the Syrian MIG-23 warplane due to rules of engagement, the statement said, adding that the Syrian military plane crashed 1, 200 meters inside the Syrian border.
However, Damascus slammed Turkey for shooting down its warplane "in the Syrian territory," 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.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Syria of "heavy" response if Turkey's airspace is violated.
"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.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul underlined that Turkey had demonstrated its determination to protect its borders.
In September last year, a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Syrian military helicopter after it allegedly entered Turkish airspace.
Turkey, once an ally of Syria, has emerged over the past three years as one of the main backers of Syrian opposition fighters who are fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.