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Raqqa:US Air force shoots down a Syrian jet, pilot missing

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Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The US-led international coalition yesterday shot down a Syrian army jet south of Raqqa, in the eastern sector of Syria, the scene of the offensive against the stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) in the country. A statement issued by the Syrian state government said the pilot is currently missing and that the vehicle was engaged in a combat mission against jihadist militias.

In a note broadcast on public television, the army in Damascus speaks of “gross attack” that undermines the efforts of the “only armed force” capable of fighting “terrorists” on the territory. The incident took place at a time when “the Syrian army and its allies have made real progress in the fight against Daesh” [Arabic acronym for IS].

The US central command confirms the strike on the Syrian jet , which in their view was dropping bombs on members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (FDS), Arab-Kurdish rebels (supported by Washington) operating in the region of Resafa. The Pentagon justifies the attack by defining it as “act of collective self-defense”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (Osdh) also reported fighting in Syria yesterday (for the first time) among government troops and elements of the Arab-Kurd alliance in Raqqa province. The fighting focused late yesterday on the villages of Chouwayhane and Jaaydine, about 40km from the “stronghold” of the Caliphate.

Meanwhile, there are new signs of war in the region: China and Iran have been holding joint naval exercises in the Hormuz Straits in the Persian Gulf. According to the official Irna agency report, the maneuvers saw an Iranian navy and two Chinese destroyers, a vehicle for logistic supply and a helicopter.

Joint military exercises between Tehran and Beijing come amid a growing tension in the Middle East, battered by bloody confictions and sharpened by the recent Gulf crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar (although the real goal is Iran). China has always promoted a policy of non-interference in the affairs of the region, promoting trade relations with Riyadh and Tehran. Two days ago US fleet vehicles held naval exercises with Qatar.

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