A Syrian Mig-23 was shot down March 23 by a Turkish F-16 after violating Turkish airspace while conducting an air strike on the Syrian town of Kasab in Latakia, Syria. The Syrian aircraft is reported to have gone down near the Syrian town of Kasab after the pilot ejected.
Turkey has sharpened the rules of engagement for its military forces after several previous incidents emanating from the Syrian Civil War leading to ordinance and aircraft causing damage to Turkish property and deaths of Turkish citizens along the border.
Turkish forces shot down a Syrian helicopter that violated the border late last year, leading to the decision to revise Turkish aerial defense doctrine to engage Syrian military aircraft when they approach the Turkish border, rather than wait until Turkish territory has been struck.
There were two Syrian Mig-23s conducting the air strike. Turkish forces warned both aircraft four times. One Mig eventually turned away; the second did not and was engaged by one of two F-16s on combat air patrol when it crossed into Turkish airspace.
There have been other non-aerial clashes between Syrian and Turkish forces along the border though, not actual combat between troops of one side crossing into the others' territory. The heaviest incident was a Turkish artillery barrage against Syrian forces following an incident in which Syrian ordnance landed in Turkey.
Today’s incident was announced by both Prime Minister Erdogan and Turkey’s Defense Minister at separate political rallies.
Turkey's ruling AK Party is facing tough local election campaigns following revelations of graft and corruption and the release of recorded phone conversations allegedly revealing the voice of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan instructing a news network to stop playing excerpts of an opposition speech; and in the other recording, instructing his son to hide money.
News of the shoot down of the Syrian Mig-23 also follows a report that a cousin of Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad was killed in combat with rebel forces.
It is extremely unlikely that Syria will take any action in retaliation for the shoot down. The Assad regime is fully aware that when engaging rebels near the Turkish or Israeli borders, both nations’ forces have the stated policy of acting in defense of their territory and airspace quickly and effectively.
Israel has taken punitive military action along the Golan Heights cease-fire line on numerous occasions following Syrian cross-border actions and has never sought to escalate matters following such incidents.
The Syrian government and military more likely are knowingly running risks in combat actions close to international borders, and are not in any shape overall to get drawn into a general war with either Turkey or Israel in any case. Especially since doing so would fatally weaken their forces and in the end, aid the rebels.
The only overt action against either nation Syria has taken was the downing of a Turkish RF-4E Phantom battlefield reconnaissance aircraft in June 2012. An aircraft which was very likely gathering electronic signals intelligence on Syrian forces in the region. It is still disputed between the Syrian and Turkish governments whether or not the Turkish aircraft was or was not inside Syrian airspace when it was engaged by Syrian forces.