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Syria confirms Turkey shot down its fighter jets on combat mission in Idlib

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows a Syrian Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jet dropping a bomb on the militant-held area of Jobar district near the capital Damascus, June 30, 2017 (By AFP)

Syria has confirmed that Turkish forces have intercepted and shot down two Soviet-built Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jets belonging to the Syrian Air Force, with the pilots ejecting moments before the aircraft were hit.

According to Syrian sources, the Syrian planes were on a combat mission against militants in the embattled northwestern province of Idlib.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military source, reported that Turkish warplanes targeted the jets at 13:25 p.m. Damascus time (1125 GMT).

Tensions in the conflict between Ankara and Damascus have soared to a dramatic level recently.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian army announced the closure of airspace over Idlib, saying it will down any aircraft that breaches its airspace.  

Separately, SANA said Syrian government forces had brought down three Turkish drones as they were flying in the skies over the strategic town of Saraqib.

This came one day after the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said tens of Syrian soldiers had been killed in Turkish drone strikes in Idlib within 24 hours.

On Friday, a total of 48 Syrian soldiers were killed by similar attacks in Idlib.

The escalation in the Turkish attacks on Syrian forces comes against the backdrop of airstrikes that killed 34 Turkish soldiers on Thursday. Ankara blames the attacks on Syrian government forces.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said in a statement on Friday that Turkey is supporting terrorist groups in Idlib.

The ministry dismissed allegations by Turkish and Western media outlets regarding losses upon Syrian government forces in Saraqeb, noting that such claims are meant to uplift the morale of terror groups operating in the area and clearly show that Turkish forces are fighting alongside terrorist groups and that Ankara has no respect for its commitments under the Sochi agreement.

Under the deal, all militants in the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib, and also parts of the provinces of Aleppo and Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17, 2018, with the Takfiri groups having to withdraw two days earlier.

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