A warplane of Assad regime’s air force crashed in Turkey near its border with Syria during a mission to bomb the rebel-held areas and the pilot was found hours later. while a rebel alliance claimed responsibility for the attack.
The plane crashed in the Turkish province of Hatay on Saturday, the news agency said, quoting provincial governor Erdal Ata as saying police and medical teams were at the crash site.
“The plane’s cockpit was empty. We believe that the pilots parachuted out,” Ata said, adding that a search for them was underway.
On Sunday, Anadolu reported that the pilot was found and taken to the hospital, adding that he had managed to use his parachute to land safely.
He was found exhausted after a nine-hour search by Turkish security teams and was being given medical care at a local medical centre.
A Syrian military official, quoted by state television, said: “Contact was lost with a military aircraft on a reconnaissance mission near the Turkish border.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a plane “which probably belongs to the Syrian regime crashed in Idlib province. The status of the pilot is unknown and there are contradictory reasons for the cause of the crash.”
Warplane targeted by the rebels
The pilot of a military aircraft said later that the plane was shot down, according to Turkish newspaper Aksam.
“The pilot said that the jet took off from the military airbase in Syria’s Latakia to carry out airstrikes on rebel targets near the Syrian city of Idlib close to the Turkish border, but was shot down during the operation,” the newspaper added.
The Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham told AFP news agency that it had shot down a government plane “as it was overflying Idlib province [in northwestern Syria] and carrying out air strikes”.
Ahrar al-Sham, a rebel alliance that controls large swathes of Idlib province, said the jet was downed using a 23-millimeter machine gun as it was bombing the countryside in the northwest of the province.
The Assad regime’s air force has been carrying airstrikes on the many rebel-held areas around Syria despite the current ceasefire, especially in Idlib where the regime is preparing for a major military campaign to retrieve the province.
At least eight civilians were killed and dozens injured in regime attacks in Idlib on Saturday, according to a civil defense official and residents.
— حركة أحرار الشام (@AhrarAl_Sham) March 4, 2017
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed that a Syrian military plane crashed in Turkey’s southern Hatay province. Media reports said, citing Turkish sources, that the jet was a MiG-23 fighter rather than a MiG-21.
In addition, Turkey will announce in the coming days whether it will hand over the captured pilot, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said Sunday.
“The pilot’s treatment is continuing right now. A decision would be made after the whole event is clarified, but now it is very fresh,” Canikli told reporters, according to the state Anadolu news agency, adding the decision would be made soon.
The crash follows several years of tensions between Turkey and Syria that led to two Syrian helicopters and a MiG jet being shot down for violating Turkish airspace, as well as Russian aircraft flying missions in support of Assad.
A Russian military plane was similarly shot down by Turkey for violating airspace in 2015, leading to months of tension between Ankara and Moscow.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.