A Syrian M-17 military helicopter was shot down after violating Turkish airspace. It came down in Syrian territory and the pilots were allegedly killed by Syrian opposition fighters, according to Dogal News Agency.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that the Syrian helicopter was two kilometers over the Turkish border and was warned several times by air defense elements. After it ignored the messages, Turkish military F-16s took off from a base in Malatya and shot the M-17 down with missiles. The helicopter was flying over territory of Hatay province where Syrian refugee camps are located.
According to the Deputy Prime Minister, the decision to shoot the aircraft down was taken according to new rules of engagement with Syria that changed after a Turkish plane was shot down by Syrian air defense in June 2012.
Though there is are no exact details of the new rules, according to some sources Turkish forces would engage any Syrian forces within five kilometers of the Turkish border on the Syrian side, Dogal News Agency reports.
Commenting on the incident, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the action by the Turkish Air Force was a “punishing operation” justified by the terms of international justice. “As it was before, we are decisive about protecting our borders and citizens to the end … The necessary information [about the incident] will be handed to NATO, the United Nations Security Council, and the U.N. General Secretary.”
Last year Syrian artillery shelled the Turkish city of Akcakale, killing five civilians. More than fifty people died after two car bombs exploded in the border city Reyhanli. Turkey blamed Damascus.
Following the Akcakale accident NATO provided Turkey with six Patriot anti missile batteries from the USA, Germany and the Netherlands. In a recent response to the Reyhanli incident,Turkey sent reinforcements to the Turkish-Syrian border.
By Alsu Salakhutdinov