The Latest: Russia wants US explanation for downing jet

AP News
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Posted: Jun 20, 2017 3:44 PM
The Latest: Russia wants US explanation for downing jet

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the developments in Syria (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

Russia says it is waiting for the U.S. to explain its decision to shoot down a Syrian warplane.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow had asked for a "detailed explanation" of Monday's downing of a Syrian Su-22 bomber.

The U.S. said it had downed the Syrian jet a day earlier after it dropped bombs near the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces conducting operations against the Islamic State group, adding that was something it would not tolerate.

Russia responded by warning it would track aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition as potential targets over Syria and suspended a hotline intended to avoid mid-air collisions.

Lavrov said that the hotline has been efficient in the past, noting that "it's quite crowded both on the ground and in the air."

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10:30 p.m.

Israel's military Chief of Staff is disputing Iranian claims of successfully launching missiles at militants in Syria.

Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said Tuesday the "operational achievement was much smaller" than what has been reported.

Speaking at an annual security and policy conference in Herzliya, he said they obtained "far from precise hits." He added the rare missile strike expressed Iran's aspirations in the region.

Israel and Iran are bitter enemies.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard has said that all six ballistic missiles it launched at Islamic State militants in Syria this week hit their targets.

It was not known what was hit and Iran provided no details.

Iran described the strike as revenge for attacks on Tehran earlier this month that killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50, the first such IS assault in the country.

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8:15 p.m.

The U.S. military has confirmed it killed a top Islamic State cleric in an airstrike.

Central Command said Tuesday that Turki al-Binali was killed on May 31. Activists and IS supporters reported his death at the time, but the military is only confirming it now.

The Bahraini cleric wrote religious justifications for the enslavement of thousands of women from Iraq's Yazidi minority and helped establish the IS branch in Libya. He rose to be one of the extremist group's leading ideologues.

The military said Binali was killed in Mayadeen, an IS-held Syrian town near the Iraqi border.

Several senior Islamic State figures have been killed in recent years as the group has been driven from large parts of Syria and Iraq. U.S.-backed forces recently pushed into Raqqa, the northern Syrian city that served as the group's de facto capital.

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5:45 p.m.

The U.S. military says it shot down an Iranian-made, armed drone in southern Syria.

A defense official says the drone was approaching a military camp near the Syria-Jordan border. That is where U.S. forces have been training and advising local Syrian Arabs for the fight against Islamic State militants.

The official says the drone was considered a threat, and was shot down by a U.S. F-15 fighter jet.

The official was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official says the drone was a Shaheed 129 and appeared to have been operated by "pro-regime" forces.

It was the second time this month that the U.S. has shot down an armed drone in the vicinity of the camp at Tanf.

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4 p.m.

The U.N. children's agency says the European Union has donated 90 million euros ($100.3 million) that will help provide critical services and support to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

UNICEF said in a statement Tuesday that the donation on World Refugee Day will help it along with host countries to provide hundreds of thousands of children and young people with access to education, vocational training and psychological support.

It said the latest contribution brings the total funding from the EU Trust Fund for UNICEF's work on the Syria crisis response to nearly €200 million ($223 millions).

The announcement came days after UNICEF appointed its newest Goodwill Ambassador, Syrian Muzoon Almellehan, 19, the first person with official refugee status to become an Ambassador for UNICEF.

It said around 2 million children from Syria live as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, adding pressure on already stretched support systems.

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12:20 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say a truce that went into effect three days ago in the southern city of Daraa has collapsed amid a government offensive near the Jordanian border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces pushed on Tuesday into some rebel-held areas in Daraa, as well as its western outskirts. The 48-hour truce that had started there at noon Saturday was supposed to be extended.

Daraa-based activist Ahmad al-Masalmeh says fighting is now underway in the city. He is blaming the government for the truce's collapse.

Daraa is where Syria's crisis first broke out in March 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar Assad's government. The crisis quickly became a civil war, which has since left at least 400,000 people dead.

The Syrian government forces' march toward the Jordanian border comes two weeks after they reached the border with Iraq for the first time in years.

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11:55 a.m.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard says all six ballistic missiles it launched at Islamic State militants in Syria earlier this week hit their targets.

Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif told The Associated Press on Tuesday the force's "local sources and drone films say that all the six missiles the Guard launched hit their targets."

The remarks came amid questions whether the strike — Iran's first in the Syrian war — had been effective.

It was not known what exactly was hit and Iran has provided no details. Israeli security officials said Monday they were studying the missile strike to see what they could learn about its accuracy and capabilities.

Sharif says the missile launch reflects Iran's "military power" though Iran has no intention of starting another war.

He says: "We are not the initiator of any conflict and war but we do not tolerate creation of insecurity in our country."

The Guard has described the missile strike as revenge for attacks on Tehran earlier this month that killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50, the first such IS assault in the country.

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10:50 a.m.

Australia has suspended its airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria as a precaution after a U.S. fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane earlier this week.

In Canberra, a Defense Department statement said on Tuesday that "Australian Defense Force protection is regularly reviewed in response to a range of potential threats."

Australia has six fighter jets based in the United Arab Emirates that strike targets in Syria and Iraq.

The development comes as tensions rise in Syria with Russia and Iran sending U.S. warnings.

Russia threatened aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition in Syrian-controlled airspace and suspended a hotline intended to avoid collisions in retaliation for the U.S. military shooting down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Also, Iran fired several ballistic missiles Sunday night at IS positions in eastern Syria.