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Turkish military F-4 plane 'vanishes' near Syria border over Mediterranean Sea

By // World | Turkish military F-4 plane 'vanishes' near Syria border over Mediterranean Sea
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  • F4 jet shot down 'over Syrian territorial waters'
  • Plane disappeared over eastern Mediterranean Sea near Syrian borde
  • Syria claims it violated its airspace by 1 kilometre
  • Turkish PM Erdogan said it is unclear what happened to the two pilots
  • A search and rescue operation has been launched to look for crew
  • Turkey 'will determinedly take necessary steps' in response

By Suzannah Hills

PUBLISHED: 11:27 EST, 22 June 2012 | UPDATED: 20:06 EST, 22 June 2012

The Syrian military has admitted shooting down a Turkish military aircraft 'over Syrian territorial waters'.

The F4 Phantom jet disappeared over the Mediterranean yesterday - potentially provoking a fresh crisis between the Middle Eastern neighbours.

'Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane,' a statement by the military circulated on state media said.

The plane was brought down over the eastern part of the sea, southwest of the Turkish province of Hatay, which borders Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said there is still no confirmation of the fate of its two crew members, but in a statement the government said it 'will determinedly take necessary steps' in response.

Missing: An F4 Phantom Turkish fighter jet was shot down by Syrian security forces over 'Syrian territorial waters'

Missing: An F4 Phantom Turkish fighter jet was shot down by Syrian security forces yesterday over 'Syrian territorial waters'

He said: 'The chief of general staff has made the necessary statement about the missing plane. I am not saying it was brought down at the point it fell. It is not possible to say this without knowing the exact facts.'

Erdogan confirmed that the plane went down some eight miles (13km) from the Syrian town of Latakia over the Mediterranean Sea.

He said: 'Four of our gunboats and some Syrian gunboats are carrying out a joint search there.'

A search and rescue operation was launched and Turkey's government has called an emergency security meeting.

The jet had taken off from Erhac airport in the eastern province of Malatya shortly before all contact with the aircraft was lost.

Turkey's military confirmed it lost contact with the aircraft over the sea close to the border with Syria.

Lebanon's Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar television station claimed that Syrian security forces were responsible after a source told the TV channel that Syrian air defences shot down the Turkish military aircraft.

Unclear: Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there has been no confirmation of what happened to the two pilots

Unclear: Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there has been no confirmation of what happened to the two pilots

The station reported: 'Syrian security sources confirmed to a Manar correspondent in Damascus that Syrian defence forces shot down the Turkish fighter jet.'

it's alleged the plane strayed one kilometre into Syrian airspace.

Ilter Turan, a professor of political science at Istanbul's Bilgi University, told NTV that Syria's action was clearly 'hostile,' even if it violated its air space.

'They could have either sent their planes to confront it or force it to land, it is a hostile act by any standard,' Turan said.

Turan, however, predicted that Syria will try to avoid escalating tensions further

This latest incident could further threaten relations between the two countries already at bitter odds over a 16-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has joined nations such as the United States in saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad should step down because of the uprising in his country that has killed thousands of people.

Turkey also has set up refugee camps on its border for more than 32,000 Syrians who have fled the fighting.

Syria and Turkey have expelled each other's ambassadors and Syria has accused Turkey of supporting Syrian opposition and even allowing Syrian rebels to operate out of Turkish soil.

Turkey strongly denies the allegations.

After a cross-border shooting by Syrian forces in April, Turkey said it would not tolerate any action that it deemed violating its security. The firing had left two refugees dead at a camp near the town of Kilis just inside Turkey.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal earlier on Friday rejected allegations that Turkey was sending arms and other equipment to Syrian rebels as baseless. Unal said Turkey was not sending weapons to any of its neighbors, including Syria.

Turkey's military provided no details on the downed plane's mission Friday, but some Turkish TV reports said it was on a reconnaissance flight.

Violence raged unabated in Syria yesterday, as the nation appears to be sliding toward a sectarian-tinged civil war pitting majority Sunni Muslims against Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

The F4 jet disappeared over the eastern Mediterranean Sea, southwest of the Turkish province of Hatay, off the border of Syria

The F4 jet disappeared over the eastern Mediterranean Sea, southwest of the Turkish province of Hatay, off the border of Syria

The jet had taken off from Erhac airport in the eastern province of Malatya shortly before all contact with the aircraft was lost (file photo)

The jet had taken off from Erhac airport in the eastern province of Malatya shortly before all contact with the aircraft was lost (file photo)

Four high-placed Syrian military officials – two brigadier-generals and two colonels who are all brothers – announced their defection from the army yesterday.

The Turkish lira fell sharply following news of the jet incident and analysts said it would be vulnerable to further losses as more details of the incident emerged.

'The lira eased after reports saying the Turkish jet was shot down by Syrian air forces. If this is confirmed, we can see more of a sell-off in the lira,' said Suha Yaygin, an emerging markets trader at TD Securities.

The lira fell to 1.8151 to the dollar after the news report, from around 1.8075 beforehand.

Continued protests: Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Dael near Deraa

Continued protests: Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Dael near Deraa

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