Tensions escalate in Syrian airspace as Russia vows to treat US jets as ‘targets’

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Russia has stated on Monday that it will treat any US warplanes operating in Syrian air space as ‘targets’ after a US F-18 fighter shot down a Syrian army SU-22 jet on Sunday.

Russia’s defence ministry has also suspended the US-Russia hotline that was established to prevent confrontations between the air forces of the two sides.

US Central Command on Sunday claimed that the downed Syrian fighter was dropping bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. The Syrian aircraft was shot down “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces.”

The Syrian government on the other hand claimed that the aircraft was involved in an operation against ISIS militants. The Russian defence ministry termed US’ act of aggression as a “cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” adding that the act also violated international law.

Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government is backed by the Russian air force as it fights against the ISIS insurrection as well as the Syrian rebels who have risen up against Assad’s government. The rebels are part of the US-backed Syrian Defense Force (SDF), which is also engaged in fighting against the ISIS as well as Syrian government forces.