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Syrian TV: Turkish military jet shot down by Syrian artillery

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:24 PM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Turkey will make its final position clear once the event is fully uncovered," prime minister says
  • The Turkish jet crashed into the sea six miles from the town of Um Al-Tuyoo, Syria
  • The navies of both countries are searching for the missing pilots, Syrian military says
  • Turkish-Syrian relations have deteriorated with uprising against Bashar al-Assad

Istanbul (CNN) -- A Turkish military jet was shot down by Syrian artillery Friday after the aircraft entered Syrian airspace, Syria's state television said.

The navies of both countries were cooperating in a search for the missing pilots, a Syrian military spokesman added.

An unidentified aircraft entered Syrian airspace shortly before noon Friday at a very low altitude and high speed, and anti-aircraft artillery shot it down a kilometer from land, the spokesman said.

While afire, the jet fell into the sea 10 kilometers, or more than six miles, from the shore of the town of Um Al-Tuyoor, the spokesman said.

Turkish plane lost near Syria

Turkey's prime minister acknowledged Friday that Syria "brought down our plane" and that a search for the pilots was "still ongoing."

Syrian opposition forces

"Turkey will make its final position clear once the event is fully uncovered and will take all necessary steps with determination," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

CIA and the Syrian opposition

The Turkish government called an emergency meeting after the warplane went missing near the border.

Erdogan said Turkish assault boats and helicopters as well as Syrian boats were conducting a search along the Mediterranean coast between the Turkish province of Hatay and the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia.

The Turkish military said the plane took off from Malatya Erhac Center and lost radar communication over the sea near Hatay province, which borders Syria.

Erdogan said there was no information on the status of the pilots.

The U.S. military is aware of the downed plane, a Department of Defense official told CNN.

"We would, of course, help with any search and recovery efforts if asked, but it's not a typical area where we would have assets close enough to assist on such short notice," the official said.

Initial reports to the U.S. military indicated that two pilots were on board, and it was possible that one or both may be alive.

The official said the United States had no confirmation the Syrians were responsible for bringing the plane down but added that "it's possible, if the plane got within range of Syria's surface-to-air missile defense system."

Any Syrian involvement in the jet's disappearance could spark a crisis.

Relations between the two neighbors have deteriorated with the bloody uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Erdogan has repeatedly called on al-Assad to step down, and Turkey has withdrawn its diplomats from Damascus.

More than 30,000 Syrian refugees have spilled onto Turkish soil, and Turkey is hosting a number of Syrian opposition groups.

CNN's Ivan Watson, Chris Lawrence and Roba Alhenawi contributed to this report.

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