U.S. Navy shoots down Syrian government fighter jet

By Ray Downs  |  Updated June 19, 2017 at 7:31 AM
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June 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy shot down a Syrian government fighter jet in retaliation for dropping bombs on U.S.-backed rebels, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. attack on the Syrian government occurred near Raqqa, the de facto capital for the Islamic State, which is battling both the Syrian government and the U.S.-led coalition within the country.

Operation Inherent Resolve released a statement explaining its attack on the Syrian government, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces attacked members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a loose coalition of Syrian Kurds and Arabs backed by the United States, near Tabqah, Syria.

"The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-[Islamic State] operations will not be tolerated," the statement said. "The coalition calls on all parties to focus their efforts on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security.

"After the U.S. attack on the Syrian government forces, Russian forces, which back Assad, were contacted to establish a 'de-confliction line' to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing."

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Adm. James G. Stavridis told United States Naval Institute News that said he wasn't surprised by the U.S. attack, but warned of further attacks and consequences.

"We're headed toward a Russian aircraft shot down by coalition forces if we're not careful," he said. "We need to tell the Russians to tell the Syrians they need to get out of any airspace we're operating in or they're going to get shot down."

The U.S. military has stepped up its aggression toward the Syrian government in recent months.

In April, President Donald Trump ordered a missile attack on a Syrian government airbase from which U.S. intelligence believe a chemical attack on Syrian civilians originated.

In May, the U.S. attacked several Syrian government military vehicles for allegedly violating a de-confliction zone set-up to train anti-government rebels.

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