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Jul 25, 6:26 AM EDT

Jordan shoots down 'aerial target' near Syria


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Jordan shoots down 'aerial target' near Syria

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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Jordan's air force shot down an "aerial target" near the Syrian border on Friday, a Jordanian military official said, while eyewitnesses said the object was a drone.

It was not immediately clear where the object came from, but there have been reports of intense fighting in the southern Syrian province of Daraa that borders Jordan.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the incident occurred around dawn. He said the target was followed by Jordan's air force and shot down over an empty area in the province of Mafraq.

"We will firmly and strongly deal with any violation of the kingdom's land, air space or territorial waters," the official said. "The armed forces will not allow any infringement of the country's security."

Witnesses said a drone was shot down near the Zaatari camp, which is home to more than 120,000 Syrian refugees fleeing civil war.

In April, Jordanian warplanes struck a convoy of vehicles as they were trying to enter Jordan from Syria. The Jordanian military said the aircraft destroyed the vehicles after firing warning shots.

Jordan hosts nearly 600,000 registered Syrian refugees - although Jordanian officials say the real number is far higher.

The kingdom has quietly supported Syria's rebels since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in 2011, and ordered Syria's ambassador out in May after accusing him of making "offensive" statements about Jordan.

In Syria, state-run news agency SANA said troops have regrouped to face attacks by the extremist Islamic State group, which has been trying to capture a major besieged military base in the northern province of Raqqa.

On Thursday, members of the Islamic State group overran part of the army base, which has been under siege by the militants for months, in fierce battles that killed or wounded dozens on both sides, activists said.

The battle over the base is the latest in the Islamic State's push to expand its territory. Since June, the group has seized a vast expanse of land straddling the Iraq-Syria border, where it has declared a self-styled caliphate.

SANA and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops are still in the base known as Division 17, which has been under rebel siege since last year. They denied Arab media reports that Islamic State fighters had overrun the base.

Syria's conflict, now in its fourth year, has killed at least 170,000 people, according to activists. Nearly three million Syrians have fled the country.

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Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

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