Damascus – While engaging in regular patrols to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq, two Hellenic Navy F-35Cs destroyed an Iraqi F-16C in violation of the no-fly zone. Afterwards the Athenian fighters were engaged by Iraqi ground-based anti-air with both aircraft going down. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence refused to confirm the fate of the pilots, but it is deemed unlikely both could have survived.
The attack marks the first major violation of the international no-fly zone maintained to protect minority groups within the country, including the Kurdish minority. So far the Iraqis had generally, albeit reluctantly, complied with the orders, likely well aware of their chances in a full war against the Byzantine League and Poland. A spokesperson for the Iraqi government came out with an emergency statement in which they said that Iraq had not ordered its military to shoot at coalition aircraft. He went on to state that Iraq, unlike the coalition, seeks to resolve matters through international law rather than military force. When asked how Iraqi aircraft and SAM sites could then have been involved in a fight against the coalition, he stated that there are rogue factions inside the government and military who would be disavowed. He went on to pledge Iraq’s full cooperation with an investigation and urged the coalition not to give the rogue actors what they desired by escalating into a full war.
In an initial statement the Supreme Allied Commander of the Byzantine League said that any military action against personnel engaging in legal international peace enforcement operations is unacceptable and must be retalliated against with full force. The Athenian Ministry of Defence has stated that they cannot disclose any information on active operations to secure the safety and ability to work of personnel in theatre. This implies that they believe at least one of the pilots is still alive and that they are working on some kind of operation to rescue them. The recently formed ARES Command could see their first active operation here as search and rescue behind heavily contested enemy lines is one of their duties.
The Empress has released a short statement saying that her thoughts are with the friends and families of the two Hellenic Navy Officers and that the Athenian Federation will not rest until justice for this horrific attack is obtained.