Amer­i­can jet de­fend­ing coali­tion forces downs Syr­ian war­plane.

Rus­sia-backed As­sad fight­ing Is­lamic State and U.S. forces

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY CARLO MUÑOZ

The con­vo­luted war zone in Syria grew more com­pli­cated Sun­day with the down­ing of a gov­ern­ment war­plane by an Amer­i­can jet de­fend­ing U.S.-backed coali­tion forces bat­tling the Is­lamic State and, for the first time, di­rect ac­tion against the in­sur­gent ter­ror group by Iran, which fired bal­lis­tic mis­siles at Is­lamic State tar­gets in Syria.

The Amer­i­can shoot­down of the Syr­ian jet took place near the Syr­ian town of Ja’Din, lo­cated south of Tabqa dam, the coali­tion’s main lo­gis­tics and air sup­port hub for the on­go­ing as­sault to drive the ter­ror group also known as ISIS or ISIL from their self-styled cap­i­tal of Raqqa, ac­cord­ing to a Pen­tagon state­ment.

“Pro Syr­ian regime forces” had launched an at­tack on Ja’Din Sun­day af­ter­noon, re­tak­ing the town from the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, or SDF, the net­work of Arab and Kur­dish mili­tias tasked by the U.S. coali­tion with lib­er­at­ing Raqqa.

U.S. war­planes car­ried out sev­eral low passes over the Ja’Din, halt­ing the at­tack by forces loyal to Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

It re­mains un­clear whether the regime forces that led the as­sault on Ja’Din were gov­ern­ment troops or Ira­nian paramil­i­taries sent in by Tehran to sup­port the regime.

Af­ter the as­sault on Ja’Din was turned back, a Syr­ian-flagged SU-22 fighter launched airstrikes on SDF fight­ers re­tak­ing po­si­tions in­side the city. An F/A-18 Su­per Hor­net was sent to take out the Syr­ian war­plane, which it did, “in ac­cor­dance with rules of en­gage­ment and in col­lec­tive self-de­fense of Coali­tion part­nered forces,” ac­cord­ing to the Pen­tagon.

“The Coali­tion’s mis­sion is to de­feat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. 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 Pen­tagon said Sun­day.

The Syr­ian strike was the sec­ond at­tack on coali­tion forces by pro-regime fight­ers this month. A for­eign drone pur­port­edly bombed a pa­trol out­side the At Tanf camp last Tues­day. The camp along the Syr­ian-Iraqi bor­der is be­ing used by U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers to train Syr­ian mili­tias to bat­tle Is­lamic State in Raqqa and be­yond. The Rus­si­aand Iran-backed As­sad gov­ern­ment is at war with both Is­lamic State and the mil­i­tants backed by the U.S.

The Pen­tagon con­firmed at the time there were no ca­su­al­ties from the at­tack on the pa­trol but would not com­ment on whether the drone was op­er­ated by the Syr­ian armed forces or another for­eign mil­i­tary.

Rus­sian and Syr­ian lead­ers have agreed not to en­ter the area sur­round­ing the camp at At Tanf, des­ig­nat­ing it as a “de­con­flic­tion zone.”

But Ira­nian-backed forces have at­tempted to breach those ar­eas re­peat­edly over the last sev­eral weeks. Last Thurs­day’s drone at­tack came as Amer­i­can fight­ers launched airstrikes against Ira­nian forces try­ing to cross into the zone. Tehran has taken an un­prece­dented role in the fight against Is­lamic State since the ter­ror group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for a se­ries of spec­tac­u­lar at­tacks in the Ira­nian cap­i­tal.

The se­ries of shoot­ings and sui­cide bomb­ings that struck the Ira­nian par­lia­ment and the shrine ded­i­cated to Ay­a­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Khome­ini in Tehran by the ter­ror group on June 7 left 12 dead, 42 wounded and roiled the Mid­dle East.

On Sun­day Tehran launched a se­ries of bal­lis­tic mis­sile strikes against Is­lamic State tar­gets in eastern Syria in re­tal­i­a­tion for the at­tacks in Tehran, state-run me­dia out­let Tas­nim News Agency re­ported. The midrange bal­lis­tic mis­siles tar­geted Is­lamic State en­claves near the Syr­ian city of Deir-e-Zour, where a num­ber of the ter­ror group’s lead­ers — re­port­edly in­clud­ing Is­lamic State emir Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi — have fled ahead of the Raqqa of­fen­sive.

The mis­sile strikes hit the “head­quar­ters and gath­er­ing cen­ters of Tak­firi ter­ror­ists sup­port­ing and build­ing car bombs,” a state­ment by the hard-line Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps broad­cast by Tas­nim said Sun­day. If con­firmed, it will be the first time the Ira­nian regime has taken di­rect ac­tion against Is­lamic State in Syria.

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