Canberra, June 20 (IANS) Australia on Tuesday temporarily suspended its air combat missions over Syria after Russia threatened that it would treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river as a potential target.
"As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased," the Department of Defence said here in a statement.
Russia's warning came after US planes shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday. The US justified the strike saying its planes had acted to defend US-backed forces seeking to capture Raqqa, the Islamic State stronghold in northeast Syria, 9news.com reported.
Australia has six fighter jets based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that strike targets in Syria and Iraq.
A defence spokesman told the ABC Online that the situation would be monitored and sorties over Iraq would continue."
"ADF 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," the spokesman said.
Moscow's warning on Monday to US-allied warplanes escalated the threat of a direct Russian-American confrontation in Syria, following the first US downing of a fighter jet belonging to Russia since the start of the civil war six years ago.
Russia also said it was halting communications with the US aimed at preventing such incidents.