U.S. Shoots Down Pro-Assad Regime Drone In Syria

It's the latest evidence the U.S. is expanding its use of force in Syria's war.

A United States fighter jet shot down an armed pro-regime drone in southern Syria on Tuesday, according to U.S.-led coalition officials. 

It is the second time the U.S. has downed a pro-regime drone in Syria this month, putting a focus on escalating geopolitical tensions in the area and the expanding use of American military power in the conflict.

The move also comes just days after the U.S. shot down a Syrian warplane near the eastern city of Raqqa, sparking condemnations and threats from Syria and its ally Russia. In response to the warplane attack, the Kremlin announced it would suspend a military hotline with Washington intended to help avoid unintentional conflict.

The White House responded by saying it retains the right to defend itself and coalition-allied forces fighting the so-called Islamic State in Syria. That group includes the U.K., France and Germany, among other countries, and is partnered with local actors on the ground. In a statement on Tuesday, the coalition reiterated it would not shy away from using force.

“The coalition does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat,” the group said.

In the latest incident, the Iranian-made drone was flying near coalition forces, prompting the U.S. to deploy an F-15E fighter jet to shoot it down.

“Given recent events, the Coalition will not allow pro-regime aircraft to threaten or approach in close proximity to Coalition and partnered forces,” the group said.

The Tuesday fighter jet attack took place near the city of At Tanf, located along the border with Iraq and Jordan in southeastern Syria. Earlier this month, the U.S. carried out airstrikes against a pro-regime militia that it claims was threatening coalition forces near the city. U.S. special forces are on the ground at a base in At Tanf, training and advising coalition forces in the campaign against ISIS militants.