The Syrian Civil War just got a little hotter Sunday as an American Navy jet shot down one of the few remaining Syrian Air Force fighters left in the sky, according to a statement from the Pentagon. The shootdown came after just two weeks after American forces hit Iranian-backed militia moving on American troops inside Syria.
The clash occurred near Taqbah Dam, a strategic site not far from ISIS’s capital, Raqqa, which is currently under siege by the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, a combination of Kurdish and Arab fighters.
According to the Pentagon, the Syrian-owned and Soviet-built SU-22, an older fighter-bomber, attacked SDF forces two kilometers north of an established “de-conflict” line agreed on by the United States and Russia. It wasn’t immediately clear if the Syrian Air Force knew it was in violation of that agreement.
The United States has stepped up its anti-ISIS war since Trump came to power in January, deploying hundreds of Marines inside Syria and giving the Pentagon more leeway to attack targets as it sees fit. Trump also bombed Bashar al-Assad’s forces in April in retaliation for a Sarin gas attack widely blamed on the regime.
There were also reports of fighting on Sunday between pro-regime troops near Raqqa and the SDF. If so, it would be a direct clash between American and Russian-backed forces. Although there were no reports of American or Russian troops involved in the fighting, the two have deployed their soldiers to nearby Manbij to separate their respective proxies in the past.
Under President Obama, U.S. forces were heavily constrained in their fight against ISIS out of fear of drawing the U.S. into a new war with no clear end in sight. President Trump campaigned on a platform of destroying ISIS rapidly, though he did not reveal what that plan would be. It appears now the administration is gambling a more aggressive approach with ISIS, Assad, and Russia will bring the civil war to an end sooner.
Sources inside Syria claimed that the fighter-bomber was on a mission to attack ISIS, not the SDF. These claims could not be verified, nor could the identity of the pilot.
You American bastards just shot down my cousin's aircraft (Ali) while taking out the scumbags of ISIS in the area.— Majd Fahd ???????? (@Syria_Protector) June 18, 2017
Ali hope you are OK bro???? pic.twitter.com/z6IKFgbtqJ