US Navy shoots down Syrian government fighter jet

A U.S. F/A-18 promptly shot the Syrian aircraft down "in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces", the Pentagon statement said.

The incident marks the first time a USA jet has shot down a manned hostile aircraft in more than a decade, and is a marked escalation in the six-year-old Syrian conflict.

The US military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against Islamic State militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict.

Downing the Syrian warplane comes as the Syrian army is advancing against IS in the southern and western countryside of Raqqa, while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are fighting IS inside Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS. The Syrian Democratic Forces are engaged in a major offensive to drive the militants from Raqqa.

Coalition aircraft conducted a "show of force", which usually means aircraft flying low and fast or strafing near enemy forces, in an effort to scare off the pro-Assad troops.

The U.S. military has said it does not want to engage in a conflict with the Assad regime and is focused on defeating the Islamic State.

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The shoot down is part of a steady escalation of the US military's role in Syria.

A Syrian military statement said its plane had been conducting a combat mission against Islamic State over the village of Resafa, which lies more than five miles southeast of Jadin, and said the US attack resulted in the "loss of the pilot".

Iran has been providing support to Assad against anti-government rebel groups and Islamic State. As the attack unfolded, the US military used a deconfliction channel to communicate with the Syrian government to stop the skirmish, according to the Pentagon statement.

As territory controlled by the Islamic State has shrunk the risks of conflicts between an array of forces operating in the country, including Russian Federation and Iran, have increased. Last month, the militia fighters clawed back Tabqah from Islamic State, but the Islamic State still holds sway in large swaths of the desert areas to the south.

They are moving increasingly east, we have already seen a couple of skirmishes between United States forces and Shi'a militias backed by Iran south of here.

Special correspondent Bulos reported from Irbil and Times staff writer Hennigan from Washington.

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