US sending fighter jets to protect forces and allies from Syrian regime strikes


US special forces in Syria with insignia of the Kurdish YPG. Photo: AFP

ARA News 

HASAKAH – The United States scrambled fighter aircraft Thursday to protect American special operations forces and allied Kurdish troops from Syrian regime warplane attacks near the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah, the Pentagon said Friday. 

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has increased combat air patrols in that area and has warned Syria that America will defend coalition troops.

The official added that this is the first time the US has scrambled aircraft in response to an incident like this involving Syrian regime bombings.

Davis said a small number of US commandos were in the area training and advising the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)–who are fighting ISIS in northern Syria.

“The strikes did not directly impact our forces. They were nearby – close enough that it gives us great pause,” the Pentagon spokesman said on Friday. 

The US initially contacted the Russians, and Moscow denied responsibility for the bombings. The US relayed the warning to Syria through Russia because they are allied with the Syrian government in that country’s civil war.

Saying the US will do what is needed to protect coalition forces, Davis added, “The Syrian regime would be well advised not to do things that would place them at risk.”

“The US aircraft arrived as the two Syrian jets were leaving,” Davis said. “So the US had no radio contact with them. Efforts by Kurdish forces on the ground to contact the Syrian jets were unsuccessful,” he said.

According to the Pentagon, the additional US combat air patrols will monitor the situation and provide assistance to coalition forces if needed, but are not enforcing any kind of no-fly zone.

President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of up to 300 US special operations forces to Syria to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces. Small groups have routinely been moving in and out of the country to conduct the training and advising mission.

This comes amid growing tensions between Kurdish forces and pro-regime troops in Hasakah. 

Since Thursday, Kurdish neighborhoods in Hasakah have been exposed to heavy shelling and airstrikes by the regime forces. 

The Assad regime has used warplanes to bomb Hasakah for the first time on Thursday, according to local sources. 

At least 15 civilians were killed and dozens more wounded so far in the regime bombardment in the Kurdish-held Aziziyah, Kalasseh and Mahatta neighborhoods, informed local sources told ARA News. 

Also, the city saw a wave of displacement among the people who tried to head to more stable areas in the province. This while many civilians remained stranded in Hasakah’s conflicted areas where clashes continued between the Kurdish Asayish forces and the pro-regime troops.

Reporting by: Helin Khalil

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