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Syria shoots down a Turkish fighter jet

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Turkey says one of its fighter jets was shot down by Syrian air defenses over the Mediterranean today, a potentially alarming development as Syria's civil war is deepening and signs are emerging that Turkey is assisting the arming of that country's rebels.

Leading Turkish daily Hürriyet quoted an "official" source as saying Syria shot the plane down and that the two pilots were successfully rescued at sea. The Turkish government news agency Anatolia said the plane was an F4 Phantom, a US-made fighter that debuted in the 1950s and is often used for both bombing and reconnaissance. Turkey's fleet of F4s have been upgraded over the years with the assistance of both the US and Israel. Anatolia quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan as saying Syria has apologized the incident.

While there's no hard evidence yet that Syria shot the plane down, it's safe to assume that Turkey has been intensely monitoring developments in next-door Syria with every resource at its disposal, with thousands of Syrian refugees having poured into its territory, and elements of the loose-knit Free Syrian Army operating from within Turkish territory.

The chance this incident will lead to a major escalation in the conflict – with Turkey overtly fighting the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad – is extremely remote. Turkey isn't eager for war with Syria, and vice verse. President Assad has his hands full fighting his own people.

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