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United States jets shoot down "Iranian drone" in Syria

21 June 2017

Australia announced on Tuesday that it is suspending air strikes in Syria, following the USA downing of a Syrian military jet over the weekend, and Moscow's subsequent threats to US-led coalition aircraft.

The U.S. says it downed a Syrian military jet on Sunday because the aircraft had dropped bombs near the U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces conducting operations against the Islamic State group.

"Australian Defense Force protection is regularly reviewed in response to a range of potential threats", the Department of Defense said.

A similar shoot down occurred at the same site after what the coalition called a "pro-regime" drone dropped bombs near coalition forces on June 8.

The U.S. military's Central Command said the drone shot down Tuesday was a Shaheed 129 and appeared to have been operated by "pro-regime" forces, a term which U.S. officials previously have used to describe Hezbollah elements.

In an indirect reference to Iranian-backed forces that have been gathering in the eastern desert region, the coalition statement cited a recent escalation of tensions and said it would not "tolerate any hostile intent and action of pro-regime forces".

Tanf is the town on Syrian border with Jordan where USA troops are training Syrian rebels, officially described as "partner ground forces".

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In response, Russian Federation said its surface-to-air missile systems in Syria would track aircraft from the USA -led coalition as targets if they go west of the Euphrates River.

Over the last week United States forces at the At Tanf base have fired at pro-regime forces advancing towards the facility, according to statements made to the media.

Earlier this month, the US Air Force deployed long-range B-52 bombers and 800 airmen to the United Kingdom in support of joint exercises with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies and partners across Europe.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Monday that the downing of the Syrian jet, together with Iran firing missiles into Syria over the weekend, marked "a dramatic escalation in a war the United States had not meant to fight".

In a statement, US forces said the drone was sacked on after it "displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces".

"I strongly hope that there will be a de-escalation of the situation because these kinds of incidents can be very unsafe in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors and in which the situation is so complex on the ground", said Guterres.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington increased yesterday when Russian Federation warned the US-led coalition fighting in Syria that its aircraft are now "targets" after a jet shot down a Syrian government plane. Australia is part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in late 2015 extended air operations into Syria, with a total of 780 defence personnel based in the Middle East.

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Activists and IS supporters reported his death at the time but Tuesday's statement from Central Command was the first USA confirmation.

On Sunday, a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber that had been firing on USA allies south of Tabqa in northern Syria after us military personnel attempted to warn off the aircraft through a communication channel with the Russians and through a show of force.

Damascus and its allies have long argued that they are the essential partner to any global effort in Syria, portraying all opposition forces as terrorist groups.

Identical local and media sources said the US-led global coalition aircrafts carried out on Monday night a series of airstrikes on areas in the southeastern countryside of Hasaka, killing 12 persons from one family in Tal al-Shayer near the Syrian-Iraqi borders.

Speaking in Washington, the top USA military officer said the two sides were in delicate discussions to lower tensions.

Australia's decision came after a U.S. Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday.

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United States jets shoot down