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World War Three could be just 30 SECONDS away with Russian and Chinese warplanes on the prowl in Syria

US-led coalition forces have announced they staged 24 attacks on ISIS in just one day, while Russia claim to have hit 55 targets

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World War warning: Air strikes launched by the Russian regime struck Daret Ezza, Aleppo

We could be 30 seconds from the brink of World War Three as international tensions over powder keg Syria threaten to ignite.

As US-led forces announced they had staged 24 attacks on the Islamic State on Saturday, Russia claimed to have hit 55 IS targets – and president Vladimir Putin taunted the West for not getting “results”.

But rebels on the ground claimed Moscow’s airstrikes, combined with ground attacks by forces loyal to Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad , have also targeted rebel groups not associated with ISIS , including US-trained fighters.

And as the airspace over Syria becomes increasingly congested, military commanders fear a clash of warplanes, helicopters, drones, missiles and artillery is increasingly likely – and could have global ramifications.

One military expert warned: “Rationalising such a complex airspace is not possible – like getting your mind round a Rubik’s Cube that moves around at Mach 1.5, then adding a dozen more.

Country in crisis: The Syrian powder keg

“Given the amount of military traffic in the air there is a real worry a plane will be shot down in a catastrophic misunderstanding of intent. It means we could be seconds from a sudden escalation taking us to the very brink of war.”

Some US planes over Syria have had to abandon targets and even bank sharply to avoid Russian jets.

In one terrifying close call Lt Gen Charles Brown, commander of the American air campaign in Syria, said US and Russian planes came within just 20 miles of each other – which, at the speeds they travel, is as little as 30 seconds from a disastrous impact.

With the Chinese aircraft carrier Lianoning stationed off the coast of Syria, positioned to allow J-15 warplanes to carry out airstrikes, the fear of split-second mistakes has spiralled even further.

Andrew Foxall, Russia expert at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said an error could lead to a “diplomatic incident of catastrophic proportions”.

But the wider nightmare is that the proxy war being fought by a global anti-IS coalition against Putin ’s Assad-supporting troops will spiral to the brink of all-out conflict.

Dr Foxall said: “Russia has a very different objective to the Nato coalition and the western drive for liberal democracy and regime change in Syria.

Attacks: Civil defence members and civilians search for survivors under the rubble

“The Kremlin’s primary interest is maintaining a pro-Russian regime in Syria.”

The intervention of China has further


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