Australia halts Syria air strikes after Russian Federation warning
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 21, 2017,
Jun 21, 2017, 10:01
A U.S. F-15 fighter aircraft shot down an Iranian-made drone over southern Syria on Tuesday, a us defense official said, marking the second time in just as many days that the USA military has taken a pro-Syrian government aircraft out of the sky.
It also comes after an American warplane shot down a Syrian government jet on Sunday in northern Syria as it "dropped bombs" near the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance fighting ISIL.
The Shaheed-129 drone was armed and displayed hostile intent when it was intercepted by an F-15E Strike Eagle around 12:30 a.m. local time near the Syrian city of Tanf, according to U.S. Central Command.
The downing of the regime jet led Moscow to say it would sever a vital hotline it uses to communicate with the coalition to avoid mishaps in Syria's increasingly crowded battlespace. On Sunday, Iran lobbed ballistic missiles at IS targets in eastern Syria, the first such attack it has carried out anywhere since at least 2001.
The US military said that it will continue to shoot down "pro-regime aircraft" if they persist to pose a threat to coalition and allied militias.
Australia's military said it was temporarily halting air missions over Syria, following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by USA forces. The Iranian drone that was shot down Tuesday was outside of the deconfliction area, the official said.
The drone was thought to be armed and threatening USA troops on the ground, officials said. The Pentagon said the incident took place near a combat post in A-Tanf where USA and coalition "advisers" are stationed in a support capacity to provide services to forces battling the Islamic State terrorist organization.
"In an email to NPR, Australia's Department of Defense says it will make a decision on rejoining the U.S-led air campaign in due course", NPR's Alison Meuse reports from Beirut.
Daraa is where Syria's crisis first broke out in March 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar Assad's government.
Retaking Deir el-Zour would help Assad secure access to natural gas and mineral resources, and open a potentially lucrative corridor to nearby Iraq.
The conflict in Syria has been raging since March 2011 and according to the United Nations, more than 220,000 people have been killed as various armed militant formations and terrorist groups seized control of large swathes of land in the country.
The broadcaster said that the Russians added that any coalition craft flying west of the Euphrates River would be tracked and "considered air targets". The U.S. Navy F/A-18 warplane hit a Syrian Air Force Su-22 near the Syrian city of Taqba that had dropped bombs near Syrian opposition forces.