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USA shoots down drone close to Iraqi-Syrian border

24 Juin 2017

The U.S. military shot down an armed Syrian government-operated drone Tuesday after it was seen "advancing on coalition forces" and displaying "hostile intent", U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The Defense Department had said Tuesday that the six F/A-18F Super Hornets based in the United Arab Emirates had been suspended from Syrian operations.

The U.S. military has repeatedly warned forces fighting on Bashar al-Assad's side to stay away from a "deconfliction zone" agreed upon with Russian Federation, near a garrison used by U.S. special forces and U.S. -backed militia around Tanf, which lies along the Syria-Jordan-Iraq triple border region.

The downing of the jet and Russia's response came as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to oust the Islamic State (IS) Jihadist group from its Syrian bastion Raqa.

The official was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. It is still unclear what the missiles struck, and Iran has provided few details.

Prior to that shoot down, U.S. aircraft struck pro-Syrian regime forces as they advanced on At Tanf.

But since the fall of Aleppo, pro-Assad forces have been moving further east, bringing them into closer proximity with the USA forces and upping the potential for confrontation, said Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and professor at Yale.

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Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, gave those clues in a livestreamed briefing June 23 after reporters pressed him about the status of the so-called "deconfliction line", a communications link between the US and Russian commands that could reduce the risk of a military incident between the world powers.

Davis said the US did not attempt to dissuade the drone from advancing through an established communications line with Russian Federation, which is allied to the Syrian government but does not have command of forces aligned with it, because "the incident emerged very quickly".

The US-led worldwide coalition later confirmed the incident in a statement, saying the armed drone was downed "after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces" that "were manning an established combat outpost to the northeast of At Tanf where they are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS". Iran fired ballistic missiles at IS targets in eastern Syria, in the province of Deir el-Zour, later on Sunday.

Daraa-based activist Ahmad al-Masalmeh says fighting is now underway in the city. "The regime made the truce and then violated it".

The monitoring group said government helicopters dropped 55 barrel bombs on Daraa while warplanes carried out about 20 airstrikes.

More than 320,000 people have been killed since Syria s conflict began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011.