A U.S. strike aircraft shot down a Syrian government fighter jet SundayÂ shortly after the Syrians bombed U.S.-backed fighters in northernÂ Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The Pentagon said the downing of the aircraft came hours after Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of JaâDin, southwest of Raqqa. The rare attack wasÂ the first time a U.S. jet has shot down a manned hostile aircraft in more than a decade, and it signaled the United Statesâ sharply intensifying role in Syriaâs war.
The incident is the fourth time withinÂ a month that the U.S. militaryÂ has attacked pro-Syrian government forces.
A statement distributed by the Syrian military said that the aircraftâs lone pilot was killed in the attack and that the jetÂ was carrying out a mission against the Islamic State.
âThe attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS, and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administrating terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region,â theÂ Syrian statement said, using an acronymÂ for the Islamic State.
Before it downed the Syrian plane, the U.S. military used a âdeconflictionâ channel to communicate with Russia, Syriaâs main ally, to prevent the situation from escalating, the Pentagon said.
U.S.-led jets stopped the fighting by flying close to the ground and at a low speed in what is called a âshow of force,â the Pentagon said.
About two hours later, despite the calls to stand downÂ and the U.S. presence overhead, a Syrian Su-22 jet attacked the Syrian Democratic Forces, dropping an unknown number of munitions on the U.S.-backed force. Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said that the Syrian aircraft arrived with little warning and that U.S. aircraft nearby tried to hail the Syrian jet after it had dropped its bombs. Thomas also said U.S. forces were in the area but were not directly threatened.
After the hailing attempts, a U.S. F/A-18 shot down the Syrian aircraft âin accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,â the Pentagon said.
Thomas rejected the Syrian governmentâs claims that the aircraft was bombing the Islamic State, adding thatÂ JaâDin is controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces and that the militant groupÂ had not been in the area for some time.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of predominantly Arab and Kurdish fighters, is a key proxy forceÂ for the U.S.-led coalition in Syria. The fighters wereÂ instrumental in retaking towns and villages from the Islamic State in recent monthsÂ and are fighting to retake the groupâsÂ de-facto capital of Raqqa.
Also on Sunday, Iranâs Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that it had launched a rare cross-border missile attack against Islamic State militants in eastern Syria. The missile strikes, launched from Iran, were in retaliation for twin Islamic State attacks earlier this month in Tehran on the parliament and the tomb of the leader of Iranâs Islamic revolution that killed 18 people, according to a statement carried by Iranâs official news agency.
The missile attacks had targeted a militant command center and other facilities in Deir Ez-Zour, a contested region in eastern Syria, where the United States, Iran and other powers and proxy forces are fighting for control. The strikes had killed âa large numberâ of militants and destroyed equipment and weapons, the statement said.
Earlier this month, a U.S. jet downed a pro-Syrian government drone that dropped an apparent dud munition nearÂ U.S.-led coalition forces near the southern Syrian town of At Tanf. U.S.-led forces have increased their presence in Tanf to deterÂ pro-Syrian government forces in the area. Iran-backed Shiite militias, along with other pro-Syrian governmentÂ forces, have steadily advanced around AtÂ Tanf despite repeated warnings from the U.S. military.
At Tanf is a key town on the Iraq-Syrian border that has been home toÂ a U.S. special operations training outpost for months.
âThe coalitionâs mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,â the Pentagonâs statement said. âThe coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat.â
Fahim reported from Istanbul. Louisa Loveluck contributed to this report from Beirut.
This article is developing and will be updated.