Wed, Jun 21, 2017 - Page 6 News List

RAAF suspends air operations over Syria

The Guardian

Australia has suspended air combat missions over Syria after Russia threatened that it would treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river as a potential target.

Russia said it was responding to US planes shooting down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The US said its planes had acted to defend US-backed forces seeking to capture the Islamic State group capital of Raqqa in north-east Syria.

An Australian Department of Defence spokesperson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp that the situation would be monitored and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) sorties over Iraq would continue.

“Australian Defence Force [ADF] personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” he said.

The downing of the Syrian Su-22 on Sunday by a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet is the first such US attack on a fighter jet belonging to the regime since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Damascus said its plane had been on anti-militant mission.

Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.”

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy,” he said.

The Russian foreign ministry also said it would respond to the attack by suspending its communications channel with US forces, which is designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

Russia said it would in future be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that poses a threat to Russian aircraft.”

“All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] of the international coalition, detected to the west of the Euphrates river will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets,” the Russian ministry said.

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