The threat by Russia to shoot down the US-led coalition's aircraft in Syria has forced Australia to halt its aerial mission in the zone. Australia's defence ministry said it was temporarily suspending the operations as a "precautionary measure".
Moscow had earlier warned that it would treat US-aligned jets as potential targets in its operations in the Syrian airspace west of the Euphrates. The warning came after the US brought down a Syrian regime's fighter jet, which was reportedly pounding positions of US-backed rebel fighters.
"As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force [ADF] strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased. ADF personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course," read an official statement.
"Australia Defence Force protection is regularly reviewed in response to a range of potential threats," added the spokesman for the defence department. However, the ongoing operations in Iraq would remain unaffected.
This is the first time a Russian move has hindered Australia's campaign as part of the US-led coalition in the region against Islamic State (Isis) positions. Australia has currently deployed six RAAF F/A-18A Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail airport command and control aircraft and a KC-30A Multi-role Tanker in its mission in Iraq and Syria.
Australia's halt comes hours after Moscow announced it was cutting off the "deconfliction" communication channel – the hotline used to share operational details of respective missions – in response to the US downing of the jet. The pilot of the downed aircraft is believed to have ejected though it was initially thought he was killed.
Russia and the US are supporting two rival sides in the long-running Syrian conflict. Assad enjoys the backing of Moscow while his opposition forces have Washington's support.