A U.S. fighter jet shot down a Syrian Armed Forces aircraft that reportedly deployed munitions against coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on June 18, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
The bombing by a Syrian military aircraft came after pro-regime forces reportedly wounded one SDF fighter and forced the rebels, supported by the U.S. and other coalition partners as part of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, to flee a foothold the town of Ja’DIn south of Tabqa, home of the country’s largest dam and a strategically important stepping stone on the march towards the jihadis’ de facto capital of Raqqa.
Just two hours after the coalition aircraft ended the advance by pro-regime militias with “a show of force,” a Syrian Air Force SU-22 bombarded SDF fighter positions outside Ja’Din in close proximity to an established deconfliction zone.
The bombing prompted coalition forces to deploy a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet to immediately shoot down the regime aircraft “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces,” according to a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.
“The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” OIR reiterated 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.”
While the U.S.-led coalition and Syrian regime are technically not at war — despite President Donald Trump’s Tomahawk strike against a military airbase in April in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons — the incident marks the culmination of several weeks of increasingly violent clashes between militias backed by the government of Bashar al-Assad and coalition forces training SDF and Kurdish fighters as part of the campaign against ISIS.
Coalition forces stationed at the At Tanf garrison have conducted several airstrikes in the past month in response to incursions into the deconfliction zone on the Iran-Syria border by pro-regime fighters, bombarding militia convoys, technicals and artillery pieces.
Shortly after the June 8 strike, OIR officials announced that a F-15E Strike Eagle had shot down an Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle “about the size of an MQ-1 Predator” operated by pro-regime forces that “dropped one of several weapons it was carrying” near a coalition position.
On June 14, the Department of Defense relocated an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Jordan to the At Tanf in response to pro-regime forces “deploying their own artillery,” several Pentagon officials told CNN at the time.
“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,” OIR said in its June 18 statement. “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.”