Once Syria’s military advanced against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham rebel groups in the southern Idlib village of Khan Sheikhoun, Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jets flew above the battle scene, compelling Russian Su-35 fighter jets at the Khmeimim airbase near Latakia to scramble in response on Tuesday reports Debka.
They cautioned the Turkish pilots to withdraw or else get shot down. According to the site’s military sources, the Russians made good on their ultimatum by positioning both S-300 and S-400 air defense batteries that were deployed at the base on standby. Moments later, after the Turkish aircrews saw the Russian Su-35s flying alongside, they retreated and left the Syrian air space.
Western military sources monitoring the conflict in Idlib claim that, despite the fact that the Turkish pilots were told to disengage from their Russian counterparts on Tuesday, they might make another attempt if the rebel forces backed by Ankara falls back underneath the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive. The scenario of a “direct Turkish-Russian air engagement is therefore likely to recur” Debka reports.
The last time Turkish-Russian aerial showdown happened on Nov. 25, 2015, when a Turkish F-16 fighter jet downed a Russian Su-24M strike plane, also over northern Syria. The crisis in Russian-Turkish relations dragged on for many months. According to the site, Turkish President Recep Erdogan is doggedly determined to thwart the Syrian-Russian drive in Idlib “all costs”. Erdogan is even ready to take on Putin in head-on operations to achieve his ends.
An officer from a Syrian rebel faction confirmed that warriors from a Turkish-backed rebel group joined in defending Khan Sheikhoun. Debka’s sources are saying that the force is a Turkman militia who fights under the command of Turkish officers.