Australia has suspended air combat missions over Syria after Russia had threatened that it would treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates River as a potential target.

This was in the aftermath of a US F-18 shooting down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday after the pilot bombed pro-coalition SDF forces outside of Raqqa. The US and coalition forces have tried to steer clear of the Syrian troops of the embattled government of President Assad. They’ve tried to target only the Islamic State (IS) who held sizable portions of the country.

The Australians have six fighters stationed in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) that have been used in combat operations against both Syria and Iraq. But for now, they have stopped operations over Syria, “as a precautionary measure.”

spokesman for the Department of Defence told the ABC that the situation would be monitored and sorties over Iraq would continue. “Australian defence force personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” he said.

The UK Ministry of Defence said it would continue its operations against Isis as part of the US-led coalition in Syria.

Moscow’s warning on Monday to US-allied warplanes west of the Euphrates escalated the threat of a direct Russian-American confrontation in Syria, following the first US shooting down of a fighter jet belonging to the regime since the start of the civil war six years ago.

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Russia stressed it would in future be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that poses a threat to Russian aircraft”.

Moscow’s foreign ministry said: “All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] of the international coalition, detected to the west of the Euphrates river will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.”

The US’ General Joseph Dunford had stated that “we made every effort to warn those individuals not to come any closer and then the commander made a judgment that it was a threat to the forces that we are supporting and took action.”

Meanwhile, the war of words between the US and Russia continues to escalate as the civil war grinds on in Syria.

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Photo courtesy US DOD