US officials have claimed that a Russian jet fighter had flown in close proximity to a US military aircraft while on a reconnaissance mission in the skies over Syria, generating a dangerous situation for the four American crew members on board.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of a military operation, claimed the incident happened over the weekend, and represents a significant escalation in what has been a string of encounters between US and Russian aircraft over Syria in recent weeks.
The unidentified US officials further asserted that the intercept by the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 jet impeded the US crew’s ability to safely operate their MC-12 twin-engine turboprop aircraft.
They also claimed that the US aircraft was doing surveillance in support of operations against the remnants of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.
On Tuesday, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria stated that the US-led coalition’s fighter jets had violated the Syrian airspace over the strategic al-Tanf region six times within the past 24 hours.
“The Russian side stresses that such actions create risks of air accidents with civilian planes performing regular flights,” he said.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that the US was considering options to address the increasing Russian activities in the skies over Syria.
The news agency did not say what options were considered by the US, noting that the increased Russian military activity “stems from growing cooperation and coordination between Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian government to try to pressure the US to leave Syria.”
Earlier this month, US Air Forces Central commander Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich claimed that Russian fighter jets “harassed” American MQ-9 Reaper drones over Syria on three separate occasions in a week. The Russian Air Force was conducting joint exercises with its Syrian counterpart at the time, and Moscow blamed the US for violating restricted airspace with the drone flights, a charge that the Pentagon rejected.
Russia has been providing Syrian forces with crucial military assistance in the ongoing battles across the conflict-plagued Arab country.
The Russian assistance, which began in September 2015 at the official request of the Syrian government, has proved effective as Syrians continue to recapture key areas from remnants of the Daesh terrorist group and other foreign-backed terrorist factions.
The US military has stationed forces and equipment in northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming the deployment is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists.
Damascus, however, maintains the deployment is meant to plunder the rich mineral resources.
Former US President Donald Trump admitted on more than one occasion that American forces were in the Arab country for its oil.