U.S. pilots operating over Syria won't hesitate to defend themselves from Russian threats, a Pentagon spokesperson said Monday in the latest escalation between the two superpowers since a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian aircraft on Sunday.

"We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened," Capt. Jeff Davis told The Washington Examiner.

Department of Defense spokesperson Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said coalition aircraft would continue conducting "operations throughout Syria, targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for Coalition partner forces on the ground."

170411-N-YL257-028 ARABIAN GULF (April 11, 2017) An F/A-18C Hornet attached to the "Ragin' Bulls" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) (GHWB). GHWB is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines/Released)Expand / Collapse

A 'Super Hornet' jet launching from the USS George HW Bush in April. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines)

"As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian Regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to re-position aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrew given known threats in the battlespace," Rankine-Galloway said in a statement.

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Earlier Monday, Russian officials threatened to treat U.S.-led coalition planes flying in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, would be considered targets.

The news came one day after the first time in history a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian plane – and the first time in nearly 20 years the U.S. has shot down any warplane in air-to-air combat.

The last time a U.S. jet had shot down another country’s aircraft came over Kosovo in 1999 when a U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle shot down a Serbian MiG-29.

On Sunday, it was a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet that shot down a Syrian SU-22 after that jet dropped bombs near U.S. partner forces taking on ISIS.

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Russia's defense ministry also said Monday it was suspending coordination with the U.S. in Syria over so-called "de-confliction zones" after the downing of the Syrian jet.


A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on September 18, 2013 shows Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (left) meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.Expand / Collapse

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, left, meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. (SANA)

The United States and Russia, which has been providing air cover for Syria's President Bashar Assad since 2015 in his offensive against ISIS, have a standing agreement that should prevent in-the-air incidents involving U.S. and Russian jets engaged in operations over Syria.

The Russian defense ministry said it viewed the incident as Washington's “deliberate failure to make good on its commitments” under the de-confliction deal.'

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, in comments to Russian news agencies, compared the downing to “helping the terrorists that the U.S. is fighting against.”

“What is this, if not an act of aggression,” he asked.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed opposition fighters said Assad's forces have been attacking their positions in the northern province of Raqqa and warned that if such attacks continue, the fighters will take action.

"Would just tell you that we'll work diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to establish deconfliction," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said on Monday.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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