US shoots down pro-Syrian government drone that fired at forces, bombs pro-Syrian...

US shoots down pro-Syrian government drone that fired at forces, bombs pro-Syrian forces for third time

By Loree Lewis   
U.S. Navy F-18 Hornet aircraft fly in support of Iraq. (Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. shot down a pro-Syrian government drone that had fired at the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition and its partnered forces and also bombed pro-government forces on the ground who had entered a protected zone with armed vehicles in Syria on Thursday, a U.S. military spokesperson said.

The munition fired from the drone “hit dirt” and caused no injuries or damage to the coalition and partnered patrol in southern Syria, east of the city of At Tanf, said U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS. Dillon said the shot did not appear to be a warning shot, but rather an attack on the group.

A U.S. aircraft responded to the shot by shooting down the drone, which was still armed, Dillon said. The coalition and partnered forces had been patrolling outside the 34-mile protected zone around At Tanf, which the U.S. and Syrian-allied Russia had agreed upon.

Dillion would not say what the origin of the drone was, including whether it was possibly Iranian or belonged to Hezbollah. He only described it as one similar to a U.S. MQ-1 Predator drone.

Dillion said that earlier the U.S. had bombed two pro-Syrian government pick-up trucks armed with weapons that had entered the protected zone, known as a “de-confliction zone.” The U.S.-led coalition is training anti-ISIS rebels at a base inside the zone. The bombing marked the third time the coalition has bombed pro-Syrian forces in the area in the past three weeks while occupying the de-confliction zone despite warnings to leave.

“The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces, however we remain ready to defend ourselves against any threat,” Dillon said. “Our focus is on ISIS.”

On Tuesday the U.S. bombed pro-regime forces after they entered the area with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers and did not heed warnings to leave the area. The U.S. said it had successfully relayed a message to the group through a communications channel with the Russians and dropped leaflets. Prior to that, the U.S. on May 18 bombed what were described as pro-Syrian government and Iranian-backed forces after they appeared to establish a firebase for artillery units inside the zone. Prior to that bombing, the U.S. said, it had told the pro-government forces to leave via the communications line, dropped leaflets and fired warning shots.

“We will continue to attempt to get them to vacate that area,” Dillon said, adding that that the pro-government forces have not given any sign they’re preparing to leave.

On Wednesday, forces loyal to the Syrian government warned the U.S. that they could retaliate.

The U.S. has said hundreds of Iranian-backed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been amassing in the area, near the Syria-Jordan border. The Pentagon said last week that the massing had prompted it to reinforce the position.

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