At a press conference in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi called Turkey’s version of events “baseless and inaccurate.” He said the plane had been flying fast and low in an act of “aggression on Syrian sovereignty,” according to the official news agency SANA.
Turkish officials have said the plane did briefly stray into Syrian airspace, but left when it was warned away by Turkish officials. The missile strike came 15 minutes later, and intercepted communications suggest the Syrians not only knew the plane was Turkish, but took a “deliberate” decision to target it, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal.
Makdissi disputed that, saying the anti-aircraft defenses were automatically triggered when the plane approached the Syrian coast.
He cautioned against NATO involvement in Syria ahead of a meeting Tuesday called by Turkey, saying that Syria was prepared to defend its territory.
“I want to reassure everyone that the Syrian territories, waters and airspace are sacrosanct for the Syrian army,” he said.
He also issued a warning to Turkey about its role in hosting the Free Syrian Army, whose leadership is living in a refugee camp in southern Turkey. Turkey is also reported to have been helping facilitate an effort to supply arms and funding to rebels inside the country.
“There is a crisis in Syria, but the solution cannot be through aggravating, mobilizing and arming the movement in Syria, nor through hosting entities that do not believe in a political solution but rather believe in militarizing the movement and undermining the stability of the neighboring country, Syria.”
Turkish news outlets reported that a fresh wave of defectors from the Syrian army had recently crossed the border, including a general, two colonels, a major and at least 33 soldiers.
But officers with the Free Syrian Army in southern Turkey said the defections weren’t new, though they are often only announced some time after the event after defectors are sure their family members are safe.
According to Col. Malik Kurdi, the most recent general to defect and arrive in Turkey 10 days ago was General Adnan Slaw, a retired administrator in the chemical weapons division of the Syrian military. General Abdullah Omar Zakaria, who identified himself on Friday in a video as belonging to the air force rehabilitation academy in Aleppo, had defected several weeks ago but did not make an announcement until his three relatives, who were colonels, joined him in Turkey, he said.