The pilot of Russian Su-24 fighter jet downed by Turkey Tuesday was saved during a joint rescue operation in Syria supervised by a senior Iranian commander, a Syrian officer says.
Commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Ghasem Soleimani assembled a rescue team made up of 18 Syrian special force members and six Hezbollah fighters for the operation, a report by the Sputnik news agency on Saturday cited a Syrian officer as saying.
The unnamed Syrian officer said the team was tasked with rescuing the pilot while air and intelligence support was being provided by Russian forces.
According to a report published by Fars News Agency, Russian fighter jets carried out airstrikes in the region to push militants away, which allowed the team to gain better access to the terrorist-held territory.
Apart from rescuing the pilot, the team also eliminated all terrorists active in the region, before returning safely to base.
On Tuesday, Turkish Air Force shot down the Russian jet, accusing it of having violated Turkish airspace, an allegation Moscow has denied. One of the pilots was killed by militants in Syria after ejecting from the jet and the other was rescued.
Subsequently, the IRGC strongly dismissed rumors spread by Israeli media outlets that Soleimani had been killed.
“Often, the Israelis write down their dreams in the form of news and spread them through their media in the cyberspace,” the head of the IRGC’s Public Relations Office, Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said. “The fake news about Major General Ghasem Soleimani’s martyrdom is of this sort.”