Ankara: Turkey shot down a drone on Friday in an incident highlighting the dangers of multiple air combat operations over Syria, where government troops and their allies backed by Russian jets have launched an offensive against rebels near Aleppo.The army offensive south of the city further expands its 10-day-old counter-attack in western Syria against insurgents battling to overthrow President Bashar Al Assad.
The army campaign has been coordinated with Russian jets, which began air strikes in support of Assad on September 30, and Syria’s own air force.A US-led coalition of Western and Arab forces has been flying combat missions over Syria for more than a year, while Israeli jets have also struck targets in Syria during the four-year-old civil war.
That has left Syria’s airspace crowded with warplanes from rival, or even hostile powers, pursuing competing military strategies, heightening the risk of aerial confrontation.
Turkey’s military said its jets shot down an unidentified drone in Turkish air space near Syria on Friday.A US official said Washington believed it was of Russian origin, but the Russian defence ministry said all of its planes in Syria had safely returned to base and that all its drones were operating “as planned”. NATO said Turkey was investigating where the drone came from.
The Turkish military said the aircraft it shot down had continued on its course despite three warnings, in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement. Broadcaster NTV said it had come 3km (2 miles) into Turkish air space.
Turkey has already complained of Russian warplanes violating its air apace along the border with Syria earlier this month.The Russian Defence Ministry said later on Friday it had established direct contact with the Turkish military to avoid incidents with flights near the border, Interfax news agency reported.Russia had set up a hotline between a base used by its air force in Syria and the Israeli air force command centre to coordinate on Syria flights,