Turkish jets rush to Syria border
Published Sunday, July 1, 2012
Turkey scrambled fighter jets after Syrian helicopters flew close to the border, the army said on Sunday, hiking tensions following last month's downing of a Turkish plane.
Four F-16 warplanes took off from Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey after Syrian helicopters flew four miles closer to the border than is normal, the statement said.
Two more F-16 jets scrambled from a base in Batman after one helicopter approached the border in the south of Mardin province.
There were three incidents but there had been no violation of Turkish airspace, the army said.
Tensions between the two neighbors have been high since Syrian forces downed the Turkish F-4 plane on 22 June.
Istanbul has claimed the plane was in international airspace when the plane was downed, a claim reiterated on Sunday, while Syria has said it was in Syrian territory.
The plane crashed in the Mediterranean, off the coast of the southern province of Hatay. Its pilots are still missing.
The Turkish government has played a key role in the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad as he has cracked down on a 16-month uprising against his rule.
Southern Turkey has been used as a base for opposition Free Syrian Army fighters, with many slipping across the border to launch attacks on regime.
Turkey says that more than 30,000 refugees have entered the country seeking safety as Syria slides towards civil war.