Smoke rises over Raqqa on Sunday. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – After the US shot down a Syrian regime plane accused of bombing Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqa on Sunday, the SDF have threatened to retaliate against Syrian regime forces if attacks on them continue and Russia has announced it will track and target any airborne vehicles that pass west of the Euphrates.
“If the regime continues it attacks on our positions in the province of Raqqa, we will be forced to reciprocate and use our legitimate right to defend our forces,” SDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Talal Silo announced in a published statement on Monday.
Silo accused regime forces of launching “large-scale attacks using aircraft, artillery, and tanks” on the US-backed SDF since Saturday in the Tabqa area.
On Sunday, the US shot down a Syrian plane that had dropped bombs near the SDF south of Tabqa about two hours after SDF fighters were wounded in an earlier attack by pro-Syrian regime forces in Ja’Din. The SDF were driven from the town during the attack, the coalition announced in a statement on Sunday.
The Syrian military said that their plane was carrying out a combat mission against ISIS when it was shot down. In a statement, the Syrian military described the downing of its plane as an act of “blatant aggression” on the part of the United States and accused the US of coordinating with ISIS.
Syria’s ally Russia issued a warning on Monday, accusing the US of military aggression against Syria “carried out under the cover of ‘fight against terrorism.’”
The Russian Defence Ministry announced that, as of Monday, it has ceased cooperation with the US through its de-confliction channel established with the aim of preventing incidents in the busy skies over Syria. The Defence Ministry stated that it will now “track and target” any airborne vehicle that enters its areas of operations in Syria.
“In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, 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,” the ministry’s statement concluded.
The US-led coalition is providing air and ground support to the SDF in their operation to oust ISIS from Raqqa. In November, the SDF began its military offensive, closing in on Raqqa in areas north and east of the Euphrates River. They began their operation on the urban centre of Raqqa earlier this month.
The Syrian army has made recent advances in the area, pushing southeast from Aleppo and gaining ground west of the Euphrates.
In addition to its support for the SDF in Raqqa, coalition forces have been located in At Tanf, on Syria’s southern border with Jordan, for more than a year where they have been training local forces.
Tensions between regime forces and the coalition in At Tanf are high after several incidents in recent weeks. On June 8, the US shot down a pro-regime drone after it fired on coalition forces, according to a coalition statement.
On June 6, the coalition “destroyed” pro-Syrian regime forces who had advanced beyond a de-confliction zone near At Tanf. This followed a strike on pro-regime forces on May 18 on the same grounds, according to the coalition.
The status of the pilot of the Syrian plane shot down on Sunday remains unknown.