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U.S. forces shoot down Iranian drone over Syria as fighting escalates

A U.S. fighter jet Tuesday shot down an armed Iranian drone supporting Syrian government forces in southern Syria, marking the third American air-to-air shoot-down this month.

The armed Shahed-129 drone was destroyed by a U.S. F-15 fighter jet around 12:30 a.m. local time. The drone was approaching a small military base at the Syrian town of Tanf that U.S., British and Norwegian special operations forces use as a staging ground to train and equip rebel groups fighting the Syrian government and Islamic State militants.

The coalition forces "were manning an established combat outpost to the northeast" of the base when the drone flew in, a Pentagon statement said.

The F-15 intercepted the drone and shot it down after the unmanned aircraft failed to divert its course, the statement added.

The incident follows Sunday's downing of a Syrian SU-22, a Russian-made attack jet. The U.S. said it acted after the Syrian plane bombed fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurds and Syrian Arab groups that the U.S. has supported.

On June 8, a U.S. fighter jet shot down another Iranian-made drone that dropped a bomb near forces patrolling the base at Tanf. U.S. warplanes launched three other airstrikes against the forces there.

Despite the recent violence, U.S. officials stressed they have no plans to escalate fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"The coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally," the U.S. military said in a statement, referring to the Islamic State group, which controls a swath of territory in eastern Syria.

"The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat."

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