One day after Syrian warplanes bombed dangerously close to U.S. troops on the ground in Northern Syria, the U.S.-led coalition chased a pair of Syrian jets from the skies over an area where U.S. Special Operations forces were operating on the ground.
A senior Pentagon official told the Washington Examiner that Friday, Syrian jets returned to the skies over Hasakah, where U.S. advisors have been assisting Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State.
The official said the two Syrian SU-24 aircraft attempted to transit the area but were intercepted by coalition fighter aircraft.
"The presence of the coalition aircraft encouraged the Syrian aircraft to depart the airspace without further incident," the official said. "No weapons were fired by the coalition fighters."
The intercept over Syria came a day after two similar aircraft dropped bombs on positions where the U.S. was operating with its Kurdish partners.
Earlier Friday, the Pentagon issued a terse warning that the U.S. would act to defend its troops on the ground.
"We will ensure their safety and the Syrian regime would be well advised not to do things that would place them at risk," said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.
Asked specifically if that meant the U.S. would shoot down Syrian warplanes that threatened U.S. forces on the ground, Davis said, "We have the inherent right to self defense. When anybody is striking against U.S. forces, and U.S. forces are at risk we have the right to take action."
The incident Thursday involved a "small number" of U.S. special operations advisors who are working partnered with Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State in northern Syria. The Pentagon said the area was "well known to everybody to include the regime, that the coalition is actively engaged in operations against ISIL."
A pair of Syrian planes, identified by the Pentagon as Russian-made SU-24s, bombed a location where Kurdish fighters were operation along with the American advisors.
There were no casualties reported on the ground, but the Pentagon said the Syrians had no business attacking an area where the coalition was fighting ISIL.
"We view instances that place coalition personnel at risk with the utmost seriousness," Davis said.
The U.S. quickly scrambled aircraft to confront the Syrian planes, which were departing the area and the coalition planes arrived. The U.S. also called the Russians on a safety-of-flight hotline, and the Russian insisted the planes were not Russian aircraft.
The warning to Syrian warplanes was delivered through the Russians, according to the Pentagon.
"We did make clear that U.S. aircraft would defend troops on the ground if threatened," Davis told reporters at the Pentagon.
As a result of the Syrian attack, the U.S. has increased combat air patrols over area where U.S. troops are located in Syria.
There are about 300 U.S. special operations forces advising and assisting counter Islamic State fighters in Syria according to the Pentagon.