Australia suspends airstrikes in Syria after US downed jet

Frederick Owens
June 20, 2017

Australia has suspended its airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria as a precaution after a us fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane earlier this week.

Moscow's warning on Monday to US-allied warplanes escalated the threat of a direct Russian-American confrontation in Syria, following the first U.S. downing of a fighter jet belonging to Russia since the start of the civil war six years ago.

It was the second time Russian Federation suspended a hotline meant to minimize incidents with the Syrian airspace.

In the first high-level US public comments about the situation, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday the former Cold War foes are in delicate discussions to restore normalcy to communications and maintain focus on fighting IS instead of each other.

In addition to the "usual rhetoric" - the charge that the USA is violating Syrian sovereignty and breaking global law - Russia's response is "a practical step", says the BBC, promising to treat coalition drones and aircraft as potential targets. The Russians, who have been providing air cover for Assad's forces since 2015, appear to want to avoid further US targeting of Syrian warplanes or ground troops that have come under USA attack in eastern Syria recently. Also, Iran fired several ballistic missiles Sunday night at IS positions in eastern Syria.

A picture taken on March 23, 2017, shows a Syrian army jet firing rockets over the village of Rahbet Khattab in the Hama province.

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The coalition confirmed that on Sunday, it shot down a Syrian bomber which attacked US-backed fighters attempting to oust Islamic State.

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. The agreement covers four zones in Syria where the rebels are fighting pro-government forces.

Iranian officials threatened more strikes.

Moscow has condemned the US downing of the Syrian government fighter jet after it dropped bombs nears USA partner forces. Clashes between the Kurdish-led SDF and Syrian forces have been rare and some rebel groups have even accused them of coordinating on the battlefield.

The push by the Syrian government forces in the Daraa area appears headed for the Jordanian border, two weeks after Assad's troops reached the border with Iraq for the first time in years.

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