Russia has lashed out at the United States following the U.S. Navy shooting down a Syrian aircraft that was attacking ISIS-fighting rebel forces, and said it will treat any U.S. aircraft as “air targets” after this “massive violation of international law.”
“Repeated combat actions by U.S. aviation under the cover of counterterrorism against lawful armed forces of a country that is a member of the [United Nations] are a massive violation of international law and de facto a military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Russian Defense Ministry said, according to a report.
Additionally, any Coalition aircraft “flying west of the Euphrates ‘will be tracked by the Russian ground and air anti-aircraft defense systems as air targets in the areas where Russian aviation is on combat missions in the Syrian sky,’ ” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said Monday he is “confident” the United States and Russia are still communicating, and he is also confident U.S. forces “have the capability to take care of themselves.”
“I’m confident that we are still communicating between our operations center and the Russian Federation center,” Dunford said at the National Press Club in Washington, according to Stars and Stripes. “I’m also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves.”
A Syrian regime SU-22 military jet aircraft that dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters south of Tabqah, Syria, was “immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft,” according to the U.S. Defense Department.
After an initial attack against the SDF fighters around 4:30 p.m. local Syrian time on Sunday, “the Coalition contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established ‘de-confliction line’ to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” the Navy said.
But about two hours later, at 6:43 p.m., is when the Syrian warplane dropped bombs near the SDF fighters, and the U.S. stepped in.
Russia has since said it will treat any U.S. jets in Syria as “air targets.”
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, “All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international Coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets,” according to a report.
The ministry said this would apply to “all aircraft, including those operating as part of the U.S.-backed Coalition,” and that the ministry will “suspend a hotline between Russia and the U.S. set up to prevent mid-air collisions.”
On Sunday evening local time, a U.S. Navy jet shot down a Syrian aircraft that was dropping bombs on Coalition-backed forced that were fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in a “show of force,” according to the Navy.
This is believed to be the U.S.’s first air-to-air kill that included two manned aircraft in 20 years.
This action was in accordance with the rules of engagement and “in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces,” which are led by the United States, the Defense Department said.
“The Coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally,” the department added. “The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”
The attack reportedly wounded a number of SDF fighters and drove the Syrian Democratic Forces from Tabqah.
Tabqah is approximately an hour by car, or about 36 miles, from the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria.
“The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the Navy said in a statement. “The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”
“The Coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally,” the Navy continued. “The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”
“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,” the Navy added.