IRBIL, Iraq — A U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian jet on Sunday near the Islamic State-held city of Raqqah, officials said, marking the latest escalation between the U.S. and Syria since the blood-soaked civil war began six years ago.
The Pentagon said the U.S.-led coalition took the unprecedented move after a Syrian Su-22 attack aircraft bombed its allies who were fighting Islamic State militants south of the city of Tabqah, roughly 25 miles west of Raqqah.
A U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militia fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, is involved in a large-scale offensive on Raqqah, Islamic State’s self-declared capital in Syria. 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.
About 4:30 p.m., Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad attacked U.S. ground partners in the recently recaptured town of Jadin, south of Tabqah, according to a U.S. military timeline. The assault drove the militia fighters from the town. But the U.S. scrambled aircraft to roar over the battlefield in “a show of force” that halted the pro-government forces’ advance.