Russian Federation on Monday warned it would track US-led coalition aircraft in Syria as potential “targets” and halted an incident-prevention hotline with Washington after United States forces downed a Syrian jet.
Tensions rose Sunday as the US shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 fighter that USA officials said had bombed American-backed Syrian fighters involved in an emerging battle to recapture the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa.
The U.S. Central Command said, however, that the Syrian plane bombed U.S. -backed forces and the action against it was “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces”.
Russia said its warplanes were flying over Syria at the time of the shootdown and the USA failed to use the existing deconfliction channel between us military officers at al-Udeid air base in Qatar and Russian officers at Hemeimeem air base.
Moscow’s reaction came a day after a USA fighter jet shot down a Syrian plane for bombing US -backed fighters battling Islamic State.
A USA fighter jet has shot down a Syrian government plane in Syria’s Raqqa Province, officials from both sides have said. The Russians also cut off the hotline with the United States meant to prevent incidents as the two militaries operate in a dynamic and complex war zone. It is is also the first time an American aircraft has shot down any other country’s plane in air-to-air combat since 1999, when a U.S. Air Force F-16 shot down a Serbian Mig-29 during the Kosovo air campaign.
Russia, Syria’s closest ally, is now vowing to treat all USA planes in that part of Syrian airspace as targets.
“The attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS, and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administrating terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region”, the Syrian regime said in a statement. In recent weeks, the coalition has fired on pro-regime ground forces approaching the garrison and shot down a pro-regime armed drone.
The shootdown was near Tabqa, a Syrian town in an area that has been a weekslong focus of fighting against IS militants by the SDF as they surround the city of Raqqa and attempt to retake it from IS.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said it was a “continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of global law”.
“The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria”, the Pentagon said, using an abbreviation for the Islamic State group. Ryabkov continued. “It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the U.S.is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy”.
It was the first time the US has engaged in air-to-air combat in Syria, signaling an escalation of the conflict.
“If the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa province, we will be forced to retaliate”, a SDF spokesman said.