Australia has halted air operations over Syria after Russia said it would target US-led coalition planes in retaliation for a Navy fighter jet shooting down a Syrian warplane .
” As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased ,” Australia’s defense department, part of the global coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“ADF force protection is regularly reviewed in response to a range of potential threats. 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. ADF operations in Iraq will continue as part of the coalition.”
The increased tensions in the war-torn country come after an F-18 Super Hornet downed a Syria SU-22 warplane that had been dropping bombs on members of a Syrian militia group allied with the US in its fight against ISIS militants near Tabqa.
The US Central Command said it acted in “collective self-defense.”
It was the first time a US military downed a Syrian warplane in the six years of civil war in the country.
But Russia, which has been propping up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, denounced the downing of the Syrian plane as “military aggression” from the US and a violation of international law.
“Any aircraft, including the international coalition’s planes and drones, discovered west of the river Euphrates, will be accompanied by ground and air-based anti-aircraft defenses as aerial targets,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Moscow also suspended a channel of communication as part of a 2015 agreement to reduce the risk of air crashes in the country’s crowded airspace.
Australia, which has six fighter jets and other support aircraft on a base in the United Arab Emirates, joined the coalition at the US’ request in 2015. It also deployed about 780 military personnel.