NATIONAL NEWS

Russian fighter jet strikes another American drone over Syria in the sixth incident this month

Jul 26, 2023, 1:16 PM

In this image from video provided by the U.S. Air Force, a Russian fighter jet flies close to a U.S...

In this image from video provided by the U.S. Air Force, a Russian fighter jet flies close to a U.S. MQ-9 reaper drone over Syria on July 23, 2023. The White House says a Russian fighter jet fired flares at another U.S. drone over Syrian airspace Wednesday, July 26 in a continued string of harassing maneuvers that have ratcheted up tensions between the two countries. It’s the sixth reported incident this month, and the second in the last 24 hours.(U.S. Air Force via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(U.S. Air Force via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Russian fighter jet fired flares and struck another U.S. drone over Syrian airspace on Wednesday, the White House said, in a continued string of harassing maneuvers that have ratcheted up tensions between the global powers.

It’s the sixth reported incident this month, and the second in the past 24 hours, in which the United States has said Russian warplanes have flown dangerously close to American manned and unmanned aircraft, putting crews and the planes at risk and raising questions as to what the U.S. may need to do in response.

Two U.S. officials confirmed that the strike damaged the MQ-9 Reaper drone. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We’ve seen the reports, the early reports, of a second Russian fighter aircraft this week flying dangerously close to our drone” on a mission to counter Islamic State militants in Syria, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. She did not provide other details, but said Russia’s “close approach to and deployment of flares over U.S. drones during a routine mission” violates international norms.

In the incidents over the past two days, Russian warplanes have fired flares that struck U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones. On Tuesday, the flares damaged a drone’s propeller; on Wednesday, Russian-dropped flares hit a drone. In previous incidents, Russian jets have intercepted the U.S. planes at dangerously close distances, including one instance with a manned aircraft that the U.S. said put the lives of the four American crewmembers at risk.

Experts say Russia is likely conducting the harassing attacks to support Iran’s goal of ousting U.S. forces from Syria, with a senior U.S. defense official saying Iran wants to be able to more easily move lethal aid to Lebanese Hezbollah and threaten Israel. Russia relies on Iran’s support for the Kremlin’s war operations in Ukraine.

Toward that end, the U.S. has seen more cooperation, collaboration, planning and intelligence sharing, largely between mid-level Russian and Iranian Quds force leaders in Syria, according to the U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military missions.

John Hardie, director of the Russia program for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the intercepts are part of a coordinated effort by Russia and Iran “to try to push the U.S. out of Syria, just kind of build pressure over time, in the hopes that Washington will eventually withdraw.”

But the intercepts raise questions as to how the U.S. will respond and whether the risk of a larger confrontation is increasing.

“It doesn’t seem like the Russians really want a direct, hot confrontation, but things that are sort of below that threshold, like messing with our drones, is right up their alley,” Hardie said.

He suggested that one option may be similar to how the U.S. responded after a Black Sea incident near Crimea, where a Russian jet collided with a U.S. drone. The U.S. relocated its patrols to avoid getting into a direct conflict.

Both the U.S. and Russia are conducting missions in Syria. Russia backs the government of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. is working with the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in operations against IS extremists. The SDF is in a civil war with Assad.

In previous incidents over Syria, according to U.S. Air Forces Central:

—on Sunday, a Russian fighter aircraft flew “dangerously close” to a U.S. MQ-9 drone conducting a mission against IS militants and deployed flares from directly overhead. The aircraft were only a few meters apart. One of the flares struck the MQ-9, “severely damaging its propeller.”

—on July 16, a Russian Su-35 fighter jet forced an American twin-engine surveillance plane routinely used by special operations forces to fly through the Su-35’s wake turbulence, which “reduced the crew’s ability to safely operate the aircraft and put the four crewmembers’ lives at risk.” The intercept of the manned MC-12 represented “a new level of unsafe and unprofessional actions by Russian aircraft operating in Syria.”

—on July 7, Russian aircraft flew what were 18 unprofessional close passes that caused three MQ-9s to react to avoid unsafe situations.

—on July 6, Russian aircraft dropped flares in front of MQ-9 drones conducting a counterterrorism mission and flew dangerously close.

—on July 5, Russian fighter jets harassed three MQ-9 drones by dropping multiple parachute flares in front of the drones, forcing the aircraft to conduct evasive maneuvers. Additionally, “one Russian pilot positioned their aircraft in front of an MQ-9 and engaged afterburner, thereby reducing the operator’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

___

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

National News

North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson listens during a meeting of the N.C. State...

Associated Press

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson announces his retirement after nearly 15 years in the role

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Another chancellor in North Carolina’s public university system has announced plans to step down — this time at the state’s largest university by enrollment. North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson declared his retirement plans at the university’s trustees meeting Thursday, capping off nearly 15 years in his role. His term […]

26 minutes ago

Associated Press

Kansas won’t force providers to ask patients why they want abortions while a lawsuit proceeds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas isn’t enforcing a new law requiring abortion providers to ask patients why they want to terminate their pregnancies, as a legal challenge against that rule and other older requirements makes its way through the courts. Attorneys for the state and for providers challenging the new law along with other requirements […]

52 minutes ago

Associated Press

Salman Rushdie’s alleged assailant won’t see author’s private notes before trial

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Author Salman Rushdie does not have to turn over private notes about his stabbing to the man charged with attacking him, a judge ruled Thursday, rejecting the alleged assailant’s contention that he is entitled to the material as he prepares for trial. Hadi Matar’s lawyers in February subpoenaed Rushdie and publisher […]

56 minutes ago

FILE - Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., speaking during the Republican National Convention Tues...

Associated Press

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announces trade mission to Europe

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said she’s traveling to Europe for her second trade mission there as governor, which will include a visit to an air show in the United Kingdom. The Republican governor announced she’s traveling to the Farnborough Air Show, which begins July 22, to pitch […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally...

Associated Press

What to know about the Secret Service’s Counter Sniper Team

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Secret Service sniper killed the would-be assassin of former President Donald Trump in a split-second decision, taking out the man perched on an adjacent rooftop. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle has publicly praised the sniper’s quick work on Saturday. But the Counter Sniper Team is now subject to a review […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks at the 2023 Margaret Thatcher Fr...

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: Heritage Foundation leader wrong to say most political violence is committed by the left

WASHINGTON (AP) — The leader of a conservative think tank on Thursday misrepresented partisan differences in political violence in the United States, wrongly suggesting that people associated with left-wing causes commit more violence than those on the right. ___ HERITAGE FOUNDATION PRESIDENT KEVIN ROBERTS: “Most political violence in the last 25 years has been initiated […]

1 hour ago

Russian fighter jet strikes another American drone over Syria in the sixth incident this month