Turkey has shot down two Syrian aircraft in Idlib province, with the pilots ejecting and managing to land safely, SANA has reported.
The planes involved are believed to be fighter jets. No further information has been provided. Syria’s inventory of combat aircraft is known to include Mig-29s, Su-22s, and Su-24s.
SANA did not clarify whether the planes were hit by Turkish forces, or by Turkish-backed militants, with the attackers described only as the "Turkish regime's terrorist forces." Earlier, unconfirmed pro-Turkish sources reported that the planes may have been downed by Turkish F-16s.
Later in the day, a source in the Syrian Defence Ministry told Sputnik that Turkish F-16s had violated Syrian airspace on two occasions Sunday. The source confirmed that the Turkish planes shot down two Syrian aircraft. The source also indicated that the pilots managed to successfully eject, and that they were now safe.
According to the source, Syrian air defence units destroyed six Turkish drones which were firing on Syrian forces on Sunday.
Unconfirmed footage of one of the plane’s destruction has appeared online, with men off-camera heard shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
SANA (regime official media) confirms Turkey downed two regime jets in Idlib and says pilots landed in regime-held territories.— Mazen Hassoun (@HassounMazen) March 1, 2020
The news comes following a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry earlier Sunday denying that a Russian Air Force Su-24 had been downed over the Idlib de-escalation zone. The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed that Russian aircraft in the Arab Republic were performing their tasks as normal.
Also Sunday, Syrian media reported that a Turkish drone had been downed over the city of Saraqib in Idlib, possibly by pro-Turkish militants.
Earlier, Syrian Army Command announced the closure of the airspace in the country’s north, including in Idlib province, and warned that “all planes violating our airspace will be considered hostile and shot down to prevent them from fulfilling [their] objectives.”
In February, two Syrian Army helicopters were shot down over northern Syria by Nusra Front* terrorists, with the jihadists believed to have received the US-made MANPAD mobile air defence systems from Turkish military stocks.
Turkey began a military operation called 'Operation Spring Shield' in Idlib province on Thursday, soon after at least 33 Turkish troops were killed in a Syrian Army attack on terrorist positions. Immediately after the attack, the Russian military reported that the Turkish forces were operating outside the observation post positions Ankara has dotting the renegade province, and said that the casualties were mixed in with Nusra militants.
Syria began a military operation in Idlib province in December 2019, following repeated attacks by Nusra and other terrorist militants, which claimed the lives of dozens of Syrian servicemen. Tensions over the province escalated dramatically in early February after a Syrian artillery strike hit a Turkish observation post, killing over half a dozen troops. The situation has since turned into a shooting war between Syrian government forces on one side and Turkey and Turkish-backed militants on the other. Russia has urged for calm from both sides, and on Saturday reported that Ankara had committed to reducing tensions on the ground. The same day, however, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to leave Turkey "face to face" with Damascus during a telephone conversation on Friday.
* a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many countries around the world.