Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Pentagon: US shoots down Syrian aircraft for first time

The U.S. -led coalition said in a statement late Sunday that it downed a Syrian warplane in Tabqah, in order to protect Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, the majority of which are YPG terrorists.

The statement described the Syrian military advance as a combat mission against ISIS militants, according to Reuters, and it said the confrontation with coalition forces was a "flagrant" attack created to undermine the army.

A US-led coalition fighter jet has shot down a Syrian military plane in Raqqa province, the U.S. has confirmed, the BBC reports.

Government ally Iran also Sunday launched missiles from its territory against alleged IS positions in eastern Syria for the first time, in response to an IS-claimed attack in Tehran.

"This blatant attack confirms the coordination between the United States and Daesh", the Syrian statement said, employing the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The U.S. military issued a statement saying the action was justified in light of a previous incident when Syrian warplanes dropped bombs in the vicinity of US-backed fighters and injured a number of troops. Trump also bombed Bashar al-Assad's forces in April in retaliation for a Sarin gas attack widely blamed on the regime. They also said that Syria is a complex region in which the Assad regime, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel and the USA, with its allies, have carried out air or missile strikes to achieve different and competing objectives. Clashes between the Kurdish-led SDF and Syrian forces have been rare and some rebel groups have even accused them of coordinating on the battlefield.

The Assad regime disputed the Pentagon's version of Sunday's events, claiming that the aircraft which was shot down had been engaged in actions against ISIS, not against USA -backed rebel forces.

According to a military source, if the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to push south towards the strategic town of Resafa, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) will open fire on them because this would be a clear attempt by the US-backed forces to cut them off from the road to Deir Ezzor.

It closely follows three coalition airstrikes on pro-Syrian regime forces in southern Syria that the coalition said were aimed at halting advances on USA and partner forces garrisoned along the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The attack drove the SDF from Ja'Din, which is west of Raqqa, the coalition statement said. Coalition aircraft then stopped the pro-regime forces' initial advance with a "show of force", the coalition added.

The Assad government is virtually protected by the Russian army and any formal declaration of war against the regime may force Moscow's hand. Eighteen people died in those attacks and dozens were wounded.

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