Since rebel factions rose up against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the Arab Spring protests of 2011, the country has descended into fighting between the Syrian government, multiple rebel factions, the Islamic State, Gulf Arab states, Iran, NATO, and Russia.
Tensions escalated on Tuesday, when Turkey, a member of NATO, shot down a Russian fighter jet after it breached Turkish airspace.
Gathered below are 10 flashpoints in the aerial war in Syria.
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1. Turkey, a member of NATO, shoots down Russian fighter jet
— On Tuesday, two Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkey-Syria border. Turkish officials said the jet violated the country's airspace, and claimed they issued 10 warnings over the course of five minutes before attacking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane was flying over Syria, and was not in violation of Turkish airspace. He called the downing, "a stab in the back, carried out by accomplices of terrorists." He added that, "Today’s tragic incident will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations." That may prove to be true, as a NATO-member country has not downed a Soviet or Russian plane since the 1950s.
As The Wall Street Journal put it
: "The confrontation could undermine expanding international efforts to create a broad military coalition to defeat Islamic State fighters who have staged a string of deadly terrorist attacks from Paris to Egypt. It also represents the most serious clash between global powers that are jostling for control in the tangled Middle East conflict . . . Turkey’s leaders have repeatedly warned Russia and Syria that it was ready to intervene to help Turkmen rebels in Syria."
2. France bombs Islamic State headquarters in Syrian city of Raqqa
— Following the deadly terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, French President Francois Hollande declared war on the Islamic State, and launched air raids against its command centers and training camps. It had roughly a dozen fighter planes stationed in the region. On Monday, France launched its first air missions from its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, which tripled its aerial capabilities, the BBC reported
. Some of those missions were carried out at ISIS strongholds in Iraq.
3. Britain offers support for French campaign against ISIS
— On Monday, Hollande hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris, where the prime minster pledged his support for the fight against the Islamic State, Fox News reported
. As part of the pledge, Cameron granted the French Air Force the use of Britain's RAF base in Cyprus, and said he believes Britain should launch airstrikes as well. He also said he would reveal a blueprint for his country's part in the war on Thursday.
4. Turkey shoots down drone
— After three warning transmissions, Turkish officials said in October that it had no choice but to shoot down a drone that breached its borders from Syria. According to The Wall Street Journal
, the drone appeared to a Russian-made Orlan 10 or replica of it (the same drone Ukraine said it shot down in May 2014), however Russian officials denied the drone belonged to them.
"Flying jets and drones without national identification provides ambiguity to Russian and Syrian forces while deterring Turkey from hostile action, analysts said. Ankara doesn’t hesitate to shoot a Syrian warplane or unmanned aerial vehicle, but NATO is eager to avoid downing a Russian jet to avoid a confrontation as Moscow and the West back competing sides in Syria’s civil war," explained The Journal.
5. NATO warns Russia on border breaches
— On Oct. 3, Turkish F-16 fighter jets were scrambled after Russian planes reportedly entered Turkish airspace. The following day, a Turkish patrol jet was harassed by an unidentified plane near the Syrian border. Russia called the breaches brief, and accidental. On Oct. 5, NATO told Russia it would maintain and protect its borders, and urged it to cease airstrikes "on the Syrian opposition and civilians," the BBC reported
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6. Russia launches airstrikes in Syria
— On September 30, Russian parliament authorized Putin's request to launch airstrikes in Syria, and bombing campaigns began within hours. Russia targeted both Islamic State strongholds, as well as the strongholds of Syrian rebels backed by Gulf Arab and Western states. In doing so, it sought and continues seek the restoration of al-Assad to full power.
7. Turkey shoots down second Syrian helicopter
— In May, Turkey scrambled two F-16 fighter jets to shoot down a Syrian helicopter after it breached NATO airspace. Syria claimed it was a drone, but Turkish officials maintained that it was a helicopter, The Wall Street Journal reported
8. Turkey shoots down Syrian warplane
— In March 2014, a Turkish F-16 downed a Syrian MIG-23 with a missile after four warnings to reverse course and leave Turkish airspace. "If you breach my airspace, our slap will be heavy handed," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the time, according to The Wall Street Journal
9. Turkey shoots down first Syrian helicopter
— In September 2013, Turkey shot down a Syrian Mi-17 attack helicopter after it reportedly breached Turkish airspace. "The Syrian Armed Forces said the helicopter had entered Turkish airspace 'inadvertently' while investigating 'the infiltration of terrorists through the Turkish border,' and that it was 'on its way back' when it was fired upon," The Wall Street Journal reported
10. Syria downs Turkish reconnaissance jet
— In June 2012, a Turkish F-4 reconnaissance jet was shot down by the Syrian military after it allegedly breached Syrian airspace, the BBC reported
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