The Pentagon said it would not provide further details of what that next phase is “for force protection and operational security reasons”.
The White House said the US and its allies stood “ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support and any means of infiltrating our borders”.
Israel said it had been told the US had “other ways to have influence in the area” but would “study the timeline [of the withdrawal], how it will be done and of course the implications for us”.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on state-controlled Channel One TV that the US decision could result in “genuine, real prospects for a political settlement” in Syria.
Pulling troops out of Syria had long been promised by President Trump.
The state department abruptly canceled its daily briefing on December 19 after the withdrawal was announced.
One of President Trump’s supporters, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the armed services committee, called it a “huge Obama-like mistake”.
In a series of tweets, Lindsey Graham said ISIS was “not defeated”, and warned withdrawing US troops puts “our allies, the Kurds, atrisk”.
This week Turkey said it was preparing to launch an operation against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which has been an ally of the US in its fight against ISIS.
According to the Israeli military, one of its F-16 fighter jet has crashed amid Syrian anti-aircraft fire after an offensive against Iranian targets in Syria.
The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted: “Moments ago, IAF aircraft, targeted the Syrian Aerial Defense System & Iranian targets in Syria. 12 targets, including 3 aerial defense batteries & 4 Iranian military targets, were attacked. Anti-aircraft missiles were fired towards Israel, triggering alarms in northern Israel.”
Red alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.
Israel was carrying out strikes after the launch of an Iranian drone into Israel. The drone was intercepted.
Syria accused Israel of “aggression”, as Israel then launched more strikes.
In a statement, the Israeli military said “a combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.
It said the drone was identified quickly and was “under surveillance until the interception”.
The drone went down on Israeli territory and was “in our possession”, IDF spokesperson Brig Gen Ronen Manelis said.
The military said that in response the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”. It said the mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed.
After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said.
It was not clear whether the F-16 jet was hit by anti-aircraft fire or went down near Harduf for other reasons.
Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defenses opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base on February 10, hitting “more than one plane”.
Meanwhile, Iran, Russia and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – dismissed as “lies” Israeli claims that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace, news wires report.
Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma, has said she rejected a deal to offer her safe passage out of Syria in order to stay by her husband’s side.
Syria’s First Lady Asma al-Assad revealed she believed those offering her a new home were trying to undermine her husband’s presidency.
In an interview with Russian state-backed television, Asma al-Assad refused to say who made the offer.
She also thanked Russia for its “noble efforts” supporting the regime.
Asma al-Assad, whose social media pages are filled with pictures of her meeting orphans and the injured, told Rossiya 24: “I’ve been here since the beginning and I never thought of being anywhere else at all.
“Yes I was offered the opportunity to leave Syria or rather to run from Syria. These offers included guarantees of safety and protection for my children and even financial security.
“It doesn’t take a genius to know what these people were really after. It was a deliberate attempt to shatter people’s confidence in their president.”
Asma al-Assad, a former investment banker who was born in London, has been Syria’s first lady since 2000, after Bashar al-Assad took over the presidency from his father Hafez, who had ruled since 1971.
The Syrian civil war began after pro-democracy campaigners demanding that Bashar al-Assad step aside took to the streets in March 2011, and were violently repressed by the authorities.
Turkey has reportedly shot down a Russian warplane on the border with Syria.
According to Russia’s defense ministry, a Su-24 had crashed on Syrian territory after being hit by fire from the ground, and that its pilots had managed to eject.
However, Turkish military officials said Turkish F-16s had shot down the plane after repeatedly warning its pilots they were violating Turkish airspace.
Video showed the warplane crashing in a rebel-held area of Latakia province.
It is the first time a Russian military aircraft has crashed in Syria since Moscow launched airstrikes against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in late September.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the incident as “very serious”, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions.
The NATO military alliance, to which Turkey belongs, said it was following the situation “closely” and was in contact with the Turkish authorities.
The Russian defense ministry confirmed on November 24 that a Russian Su-24 had “crashed on Syrian territory, having been hit from the ground” while it was flying at an altitude of 6,000m [19,685ft].
“Efforts are being made to ascertain what happened to the pilots. According to preliminary reports, the pilots have managed to self-eject,” the ministry was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
The ministry stressed that “throughout its flight, the aircraft remained exclusively above Syrian territory”, adding: “Objective monitoring data shows it.”
However, the Turkish military said two F-16s on patrol had fired on an unidentified aircraft at 09:24 local time after warning it 10 times over five minutes about violating Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province.
It noted that the F-16s had intervened “in accordance with the rules of engagement”, which were changed after Syria shot down a Turkish plane in 2012.
According to th Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jet had crashed in the mountainous Jabal Turkmen area of Latakia, where air strikes and fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces had been reported earlier on Tuesday.
Russian military helicopters were searching for the pilots near the crash site in the predominantly Turkmen Bayir Bucak area, Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV quoted an ethnic Turkmen rebel group as saying it had captured one of the Su-24’s two pilots and were “looking for the other”.
A video posted online by rebels meanwhile appeared to show a Russian pilot immobile on the ground, either badly wounded or dead.
Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only “terrorists”, but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups.
Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria’s president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft.
Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.
The Turkish foreign ministry also summoned the Russian ambassador last week to warn him that there would be “serious consequences” if the Russian air force did not immediately stop bombing “civilian Turkmen villages” in Bayir Bucak.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended his country’s military operations in Syria, saying the aim is to “stabilize the legitimate authority” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Vladimir Putin told Russian state TV Rossiya-1 Moscow also wanted to “create conditions for a political compromise” in Syria.
The Kremlin leader denied that Russian air strikes were hitting moderate opposition groups rather than Islamic State militants.
Syrian forces are said to have made significant advances against rebels.
Government gains in Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces were on October 11 reported both by Damascus and opposition activists.
The main battlefront is currently close to the key highway that links the capital with other major cities, including Aleppo, and Bashar al-Assad’s forces are believed to be seeking to cut off rebels in Idlib.
In the interview with Rossiya-1 broadcast on October 11, Vladimir Putin said Russia’s aim was to “stabilize” the government in Damascus.
He stressed that without Moscow’s support for Bashar al-Assad there was a danger that “terrorist groups” could overrun Syria.
Bashar al-Assad’s government was currently “under siege”, Vladimir Putin said, adding that militants were “at the edge of Damascus”.
The Russian president also urged other nations to “unite efforts against this evil [terrorism]”.
The US-led coalition – which has been carrying out its own air strikes in Syria – earlier said it would not be co-operating with Russia.
Russia, which began its strikes in Syria on September 30, said on October 11 its aircraft carried out more than 60 missions in the past 24 hours, and that ISIS was its main target.
ISIS militants have blown up the Arch of Triumph in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syrian officials and local sources say.
The Arch of Triumph was “pulverized” by the ISIS fighters who control the city, a Palmyra activist told AFP.
The monument is thought to have been built about 2,000 years ago.
ISIS has already destroyed two ancient temples at the site, described by UNESCO as one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.
“The Arch of Triumph was pulverized. ISIS has destroyed it,” Mohammad Hassan al-Homsi, an activist from Palmyra told AFP on October 5.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group monitoring the conflict, said sources on the ground had confirmed the destruction.
Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim also confirmed the news, and told Reuters news agency that if ISIS remains in control of Palmyra, “the city is doomed”.
UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova has said the destruction constitutes a “war crime” and called on the international community to stand united against IS efforts to “deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history”.
ISIS believes shrines or statues represent idolatry, and should be destroyed.
In August, ISIS destroyed the ancient Temple of Baalshamin – one of the city’s best-known buildings built nearly 2,000 years ago.
The group has also published photos of militants destroying what it said were artifacts looted at Palmyra.
ISIS militants captured the historic site from Syrian government troops in May, amid a series of setbacks for forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria’s conflict, which began in 2011, has left more than 250,000 dead and about half the country’s population displaced.