Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Australian air strikes in Syria halted

Australian air strikes in Syria halted

Australia has suspended its air campaigns over Syria after a USA aircraft shot down a Syrian military jet, prompting the Russian military's suspension of incident prevention channels and an announcement that airborne objects would be tracked west of the Euphrates, local media cited the Australian Defense Department as saying Tuesday. The Shahed 129 drone was flying in a pattern that would have taken it directly over where US troops were operating, officials said.

The US said it shot down the plane to defend the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a rebel group which is fighting ISIS on the outskirts of Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in northeast Syria.

An American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday evening as it "dropped bombs" near a US-backed alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting IS, according to the Pentagon.

A US military official has brushed off Russia's warnings that it will track planes in Syria with anti-aircraft batteries, following the U.S.'s downing of a Syrian Su-22 bomber.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Washington is working to re-establish communications aimed at avoiding mishaps involving US and Russian air operations in Syria.

When the Syrian air force bombed SDF positions Sunday, the United States came to the aid of its partners on the ground - and the Syrian jet was downed.

"Australian Defence Force protection is regularly reviewed in response to a range of potential threats", the defence department said in a statement.

The downing of the warplane - the first time in the six-year conflict that the US has shot down a Syrian jet - came amid another first: Iran fired several ballistic missiles Sunday night at IS positions in eastern Syria in what it said was a message to archrival Saudi Arabia and the United States.

In response to Russia's warning Monday that USA planes flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria would be tracked both by aircraft and anti-aircraft batteries, Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Foreign Policy, "we will continue to conduct air operations throughout Syria".

"I'm confident that we are still communicating", he said, adding: "I'm also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves".

Russian Federation has fighter aircraft, air defense weapons and other military assets in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad's government.

"The worst thing any of us could do right now is address this with hyperbole", Dunford said.

It also raised questions about how U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, which had previously put Iran "on notice" for its ballistic missile tests, will respond.

It said that "pro-Syrian regime forces" had earlier attacked an SDF-held town south of Tabqa and wounded a number of fighters, driving them from the town.

Until recently, pro-regime forces were focused on fighting rebels in western Syria but victories in Aleppo and elsewhere have freed them up to move east, pushing them into contact with the SDF.

Both sides are battling the Islamic State group, with SDF fighters focusing on their march into the northern city of Raqqa, which the extremist group has declared to be its capital.

Like this: