US military shoots down Iranian-made drone in southern Syria

Jerome Frank
June 25, 2017

USA forces Wednesday morning said a United States jet shot down an Iranian-made drone operated by Syrian government forces near Tanf, an outpost of the US-led coalition.

On Sunday, a United States fighter jet downed a Syrian government warplane for the first time in the country s conflict south of Raqa, sparking an angry reaction from regime ally Russian Federation.

The U.S. -led coalition said the location was close to where another "pro-regime" drone, which intelligence sources had also identified as Iranian, was shot down on June 8 after dropping bombs near coalition forces.

The Syrian army said it would suspend combat operations in Daraa for 48 hours on Saturday, after us and Russian officials agreed on a cease-fire deal during a round of secret talks on creating a "de-escalation zone" in southwestern Syria that would include Daraa.

"We're going to do what we can to protect our interests", White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Monday, defending the decision to shoot down a Syrian SU-22 jet that had bombed coalition partnered forces near the Syrian town of Tabqah.

The incident closely followed Sunday's USA downing of a piloted Syrian army jet in the southern Raqqa countryside after it dropped bombs near US -backed forces.

Australia has suspended air combat missions over Syria after Russian Federation had threatened that it would treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates River as a potential target. A ministry statement issued in Moscow warned that coalition planes would be viewed as targets, and said a hotline for preventing accidental military engagement would be shut off.

In Syria's complex civil war, the U.S. backs some rebel groups opposed to President Assad, as well as fighters seeking to drive out the Islamic State (IS) group. The Syrian Armed Forces said in a statement that the pilot was missing.

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The US military has repeatedly warned forces fighting on Assad's side to stay away from a "deconfliction zone", agreed with Russian Federation, near a garrison used by US special forces and US-backed armed groups around Al-Tanf.

The UK Ministry of Defence said it would continue its operations against Isis as part of the US-led coalition in Syria.

Davis noted Monday that most of the coalition's air operations occur east of the Euphrates, where ISIS has a larger presence, and that the USA has not seen behavior from Russian Federation that would "cause us concern".

Moscow also halted a military hotline with Washington over the incident, meant to prevent confrontations in Syria's crowded air space.

Pro-government forces launched a series of airstrikes and artillery attacks on the southern city of Daraa Tuesday, marking the end of a two-day cease-fire, the Associated Press reported.

USA intelligence analysts quickly concluded that Iran fired the missiles mostly in retaliation for a pair of Islamic State attacks earlier this month on Iran's parliament building and the tomb of the Islamic Republic's founder.

Reacting to Russia's warning, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has suspended flights over Syria.

"It doesn t look like anyone now intends to deliberately escalate further, but when you ve got these little skirmishes. the risk is that you can end up in an escalation by accident", said Sam Heller, a Syria expert at The Century Foundation.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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