Fighter jets of the United States-led coalition violated Syrian airspace nine times during the previous day, Oleg Gurinov, deputy head of the Russian Defense Ministry's Syria Reconciliation Center, announced on July 11.
"Two pairs of coalition F-16 fighter jets, a pair of Typhoon fighter jets, a pair of Rafale fighter jets and an MC-12 jet violated Syrian airspace in al-Tanf area nine times during the day," said commander.
According to Gurinov, coalition drones also violated the de-escalation mechanism in Syria nine times in the past 24 hours, including over an area closed to flights due to joint Russian-Syrian exercises in the northern region.
Joint aviation schools began on 5 July. The exercises, which will continue until mid-July, include actions by aviation, air defense forces and electronic warfare to repel air attacks.
Gurinov said that during joint Russian-Syrian exercises in a period from July 5 to 10, coalition drones violated de-escalation protocols in closed airspace 55 times and came dangerously close to Russian fighter jets ten times. In addition, coalition drones used their fire guidance systems on Russian fighter jets on four occasions, automatically activating their onboard defense systems to shoot at false thermal targets.
Both the US and France have protested what they called "harassment" by Russian warplanes over Syria on several occasions this month.
The coalition's operations in Syria do not have the green light from Damascus, which considers the presence of US troops on Syrian soil an occupation, nor are they coordinated with the Russian military, which maintains a large presence in the country. While the US claims its warplanes are operating over Syria against ISIS, it is possible that they are actually spying on Russian-Syrian exercises
At the same time, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) reportedly carried out a series of airstrikes against a militant stronghold located near the US-led coalition garrison in southeastern Syria, in the al-Tanf region.
Video footage showing the airstrikes appeared online on July 10. However, it is still unclear when exactly the airstrikes took place.
The militants based in the targeted fort were reportedly part of sabotage groups trained and equipped by the US-led coalition.
About 200 US troops are usually deployed in al-Tanf, along with hundreds of fighters from a proxy group known as the Free Syrian Army. The coalition maintains a 55km no-fly zone around the garrison. Despite this, Russian fighter jets regularly conduct armed patrols over the garrison.
On July 7, a video showing recent Russian airstrikes on tunnels and underground positions of US-backed militants near al-Tanf appeared online.
Damascus and its allies have grown increasingly frustrated with the US military presence in Al-Tanf. During a visit to Moscow in March, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned that the coalition had turned the garrison into what he called a "terrorist stronghold."
In May, Sergei Naryskin, director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, accused the US of training ISIS terrorists in the garrison for sabotage.
"According to our information, the US military base al-Tanf located on the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq is used to train ISIS fighters to carry out subversive acts - moreover, not only on Syrian soil but also on Russian areas," the intelligence chief said at an international meeting of high-ranking security officials, according to TASS.
Later in June, Alexander Lavrentiev, the Russian president's special envoy for Syria, said the coalition was boosting its military presence in al-Tanf and other parts of Syria. Since then, tensions have been rising around the garrison.