American fighter jets on Thursday intercepted Russian planes in disputed Syrian airspace, MSNBC reported, the latest escalation of tensions between American and Russian forces in the region. MSNBC's Hans Nichols reported that the U.S. planes fired warning flares at two Russian fighter jets as they approached airspace the U.S Air Force claims to control.
American and Russian warplanes have had several tense encounters in Syria this year. Nichols speculated that this latest action shows that the U.S. "is no longer willing to abide" the Russian incursions into its claimed airspace, which have been "testing American resolve." Russian officials claim they are simply trying to launch airstrikes on the Islamic State.
While Nichols claims the incident occurred Thursday, Fox News reported the encounter happened Wednesday. Additionally, the details of Nichols' report are very similar to an incident reported by RT on Dec. 9 in which Russian officials claimed that the U.S. intercepted and shot warning flares at Russian fighter jets who were trying to bomb an ISIS base.
In June, Russia warned the U.S. that it would treat American aircraft as "targets" after American jets shot down a Syrian warplane. Last week, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops in Syria, but the U.S. — which has about 2,000 troops of its own in the country — has remained skeptical that the Russian troop withdrawal will be significant.