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US Shoots Down Armed Drone Over Southern Syria

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US Shoots Down Armed Drone Over Southern Syria

(Source: Voice of America News; issued June 20, 2017)

A United States fighter jet shot down an armed pro-Syrian regime drone just after midnight Tuesday morning, as the drone advanced on coalition forces in southern Syria, military officials said.

The U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle shot down the Iranian-made drone as it approached an established coalition combat outpost near At Tanf, along the Syrian border with Iraq, where the U.S. is training local fighters to fight the Islamic State.

Coalition forces shot down a similar pro-regime drone near the same location earlier this month, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

“The Coalition has made it clear to all parties publicly and through the de-confliction line with Russian forces that 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,” the statement read. ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.

The downing of the drone came on the same day Australia announced it would temporarily suspended airstrikes by its forces in Syria after a U.S. fighter jet shot down a Syrian jet, and Syrian ally Russia threatened to target planes from the U.S.-led coalition operating in the skies over Syria.

A statement from Australia's Defense Ministry said it would monitor the "air situation in Syria" and make a decision on resuming airstrikes there "in due course." The ministry said strikes in neighboring Iraq, also part of the U.S.-led coalition campaign, will go on.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the shootdown an "act of aggression," but the U.S. balked at the Russian threats and said it would continue to protect its interests in Syria.

"The Syrian regime … needs to understand that we will keep the right of self-defense of coalition forces aligned against ISIS," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.