U.S. shoots down another pro-regime drone in Syria
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 21, 2017,
Jun 21, 2017, 0:03
A Russian Su-27 fighter jet flew within five feet of a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft on Monday over the Baltic Sea, according to a US official, an encounter that was assessed to be "unsafe".
The U.S. -led anti-Daesh coalition has been training partner forces at a garrison located in at-Tanf, which sits on the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The latest events are unfolding in Syria's remote east, far from the main battles of the civil war, which is still raging despite a largely ignored "de-escalation" plan brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Sunday's downing of a Syrian jet was the first time any activity by Russian or Syrian regime forces have seriously affected the anti-Daesh coalition.
The Russian military involvement in Syria began in September 2015 after an official request by the Syrian government for military assistance against terrorist groups.
Australia has suspended all air operations over Syria in the wake of USA forces downing a Syrian jet and a warning from Russian Federation that US -led coalition planes are now targets for its forces in parts of the country. The US has defended its attack on the Syrian jet, stating that it was in defence of US forces seeking to capture Raqqa from Daesh (Islamic State).
For the first time in two years, Syrian troops reached the border with Iraq, establishing a link with Iraqi forces that were advancing on their side, and outflanking US troops and allied rebels in Tanf, near the border with Jordan.
The top American general says the U.S. is working to restore a communications line with Russian Federation meant to avoid mid-air collisions over Syria, after Moscow cut it off following the United States downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday.
In Iraq, the coalition conducted seven strikes consisting of 59 engagements.
Russia, the Syrian government's main ally, also said it was halting communications with the United States aimed at preventing such incidents.
Washington has said the jet had dropped bombs near US-backed forces on the other hand Damascus said the plane was downed while flying a mission against Islamic State militants.
"I would be very surprised if they willfully shot down a USA plane that came to bomb some al Qaeda target west of the Euphrates River", said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington. In April, Russia briefly suspended cooperation after the USA military fired 59 missiles at a Syrian air base following a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on the Assad government.
Meanwhile the Syrian army and its allies are also closing in on Raqqa and last week the Syrian military reached areas controlled by the SDF, making clashes between the opposing alliances nearly inevitable. Social media was awash in shaky mobile phone footage from those areas, allegedly showing the missiles rise in an orange glow before heading toward their targets.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria's war, said government forces expanded their presence in Raqqa province by capturing from IS the town of Rasafa.