Turkish army ‘on alert’ as

border tension rises

Turkish Army
Turkish Army at the Syrian border

The Turkish army is on alert in the aftermath of its downing of a Syrian jet, President Abdullah Gül said March 24, amid heightened tension on the border.

Speaking to reporters in The Hague on the sidelines of a nuclear summit, Gül said Turkey had “done what was necessary, in accordance with previously announced rules of engagement.”

Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian warplane on March 23 after it reportedly violated Turkish airspace. Gül said the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were on alert on land, sea and air, given the dangerous situation in the neighboring country. According to the TSK, Syrian aircrafts and helicopters have violated Turkish airspace 42 times in the last four months.

“The security forces protected Turkey’s border successfully when a [Syrian plane] crossed into Turkish airspace,” Gül said. “This is a national matter. Therefore, I expressed our confidence that the chief of generals would fulfill his duty.”

Tension is still high in the region, with a number of mortar shells recently landing in Hatay province and Turkish troops near the border returning the fire.

The military also stated that a Syrian missile system had “harassed” a Turkish fighter jet for more than four minutes by locking radar onto it. It said the incident took place on March 23, the same day that the Syrian plane was shot down. It was not immediately clear if the radar-lock happened before or after the plane was shot down. The military said the Turkish F-16 jet was on a routine patrol of the Turkish-Syrian border when it was harassed by SA-5 missile system.

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