U.S. and Russian fighter jets bloodlessly tangled in the air over Syria on June 16 as the American pilots tried and failed to stop the Russians from bombing U.S.-backed rebels in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.
The aerial close encounter underscores just how chaotic Syria’s skies have become as Russia and the U.S.-led coalition work at cross-purposes, each dropping bombs in support of separate factions in the five-year-old civil war.
The near-clash also highlights the escalating risk of American and Russian forces actually coming to blows over Syria, potentially sparking a much wider conflict between the world’s leading nuclear powers.
The incident began when at least two twin-engine Su-34 bombers, some of Moscow’s most advanced warplanes, struck what the Pentagon described as a “border garrison”housing around 200 U.S.-supported rebels in At Tanf on the Syrian side of the Syria-Jordan border.
The rebels had been “conducting counter-ISIL operations in the area,” the Pentagon stated on June 18, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
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