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Syrian planes defy US warnings and fly over Hassakeh Open in fullscreen

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Syrian planes defy US warnings and fly over Hassakeh

A Syrian war plane leaves the hangar at Dmeir military airport [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2016

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For a third day, Syrian regime war planes flew over Hassakeh where it US advisers are operating, while fighting between government loyalists and Kurdish forces rages on the ground.

Syrian regime warplanes were above the skies of Hassakeh again on Saturday, despite a US warning that air raids might endanger its military advisers in the area.

The jets were spotted throughout Friday night and into Saturday morning, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, but it was not clear if the aircraft dropped bombs or were making a show of defiance.

"There were heavy clashes, artillery fire and rocket attacks throughout the night and ongoing in the morning," the Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman told AFP.

The Observatory added that there had been no let-up in the fighting between US-backed Kurdish fighters and Syrian regime forces, which has left 41 people dead since Wednesday.

Among the casualties are 25 civilians, including ten children.

Close Encounters

The regime's bombing of Kurdish fighters have caused possibly the closest call yet in terms of Syrian forces wounding US or coalition advisers.

On Friday, the Pentagon had warned the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to not fly or conduct air raids in the area where American troops are operating.

This is very unusual, we have not seen the regime take this type of action against YPG before.
- Captain Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesperson

The US-led coalition then scrambled fighters to protect US advisers working with Kurdish forces after Syrian regime jets bombed the area, in the latest escalation of Syria's bloody conflict. 

The initial airstrikes took place on Thursday, conducted by two Syrian SU-24 attack planes targeting Kurdish forces undergoing training with US special operations advisers around the northeastern city of Hassakeh, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said. 

US allies

The coalition scrambled its own jets to the area in a bid to intercept the Syrian jets, but the regime planes had left by the time they arrived.

"This was done as a measure to protect coalition forces," Davis said.

"We will ensure their safety and the Syrian regime would be well-advised not to do things that place them at risk," he added. "We view instances that place the coalition at risk with utmost seriousness and we do have the inherent right of self-defence."

[click to enlarge]

But the warning appears to have fallen on deaf ears. Prior to Saturday's continued operations over Hakasseh, two Syrian regime warplanes attempted to fly to the area on Friday, but were met by coalition aircraft.

"This is very unusual, we have not seen the regime take this type of action against YPG before," Davis said, using the initials of the US-supported Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

No coalition injuries were reported in Thursday's strike. US forces were moved from the area and are in a safe location, Davis said without elaborating.

The coalition is now conducting additional combat air patrols in the region, he added.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, are a key US ally in the fight against the IS group.

Washington regards them as the most effective fighting force on the ground in Syria and has provided weapons and special forces military advisers.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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