Syrian regime war planes abandon airbase following US warnings

Syrian regime war planes abandon airbase following US warnings
After the US issued threats to shoot down Syrian air force planes, the regime has abandoned Qamishli air base in northern Syria with American fighters escorting the unarmed aircraft.
2 min read
12 September, 2016
Syrian regime war planes were forced to abandon Qamishli air base [AFP]
Damascus has abandoned an air base in northern Syria, after the US threatened to shoot down any war planes taking off from the site, opposition media has alleged.

Unarmed Syrian war planes left al-Qamishli air base and were escorted part of the way US fighter planes to other parts of the country after Washington issued "serious threats" to Damascus.

A source told Zamn al-Wasl that Washington warned it would down any aircraft flying over Hassakeh province in north east Syria following regime air raids on Kurdish-controlled areas where US troops are also present.

"The Kurdish People's Protection Units [YPG] militia threatened to attack al-Qamishli airport in the event any airplanes take off from it to hit any target in Syrian Democratic Forces-controlled areas," the website said citing "air force sources".

The site did not say when the withdrawal took place.

Qamishli city is split into Kurdish and regime territories, while Washington-allied Kurdish militias and the Islamic State group are fighting for control of Hassakeh province. 

The six planes were allowed to leave the base after Damascus got permission from the US, the source alleged, saying that the regime was concerned they might be shot down without prior approval from Washington.

Four Mig 21 fighter jets flew to Deir az-Zour, where regime forces are fighting the Islamic State group, while two Sukhoi 22 returned to al-Dumayr air base, close to Damascus.

It comes after tensions last month between regime and Kurdish forces in Hassakeh city broke out into fighting, leaving dozens dead.

Damascus launched a number of deadly air raids on rival forces in the province. It was the first time that Kurdish forces had been subject to regime bombing.

The US was said to be alarmed by the air raids which took place close to the presence of American troops.

Washington has provided military aid and technical support - including military advisers - to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State group militants in Hassakeh province and other areas.

Following US warnings, fighting between the two sides had quietened. 

However, rebel areas continued to be pounded by regime and Russian war planes, with scores dead over the weekend after more deadly bombing raids on Aleppo and Idlib.