US strike hits pro-Assad forces in Syria

Vincent Carr
May 19, 2017

WASHINGTON/AMMAN The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Thursday against militia supported by the Syrian government that posed a threat to U.S. and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters in the country's south, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday.

The coalition carried out the strike after Russian attempts to halt the advance on the town apparently failed to stop the troops from moving south into an agreed upon deconfliction zone where the USA and its allies were operating.

This is now the second time the Trump administration struck Assad regime forces.

"The pro-regime forces must now withdraw outside of the established de-confliction zone to avert further coalition action and remove the threat to our forces", US officials said.

Bashar al-Ja'afari, who is also Syria's United Nations ambassador, said the subject was brought up on the government's "own initiative", but insisted that Damascus "will not accept any interference" on the constitution.

Describing the hours-long event as an "escalation-of-force situation", the official said it did not signal a strategic shift for the coalition, which remains focused on fighting IS group.

It is unclear yet whether the strikes have killed any Syrian soldiers or pro-government militia fighters as there has been no official comment from Damascus so far.

Does today's airstrike by the USA presage significant future US engagement in s struggle for control of this region?

The airstrikes occurred near the Syrian town of al-Tanf, where Syrian opposition forces backed by the USA have been under recent attack by Syrian and Russian jets near the main road linking Damascus to Baghdad.

These latest strikes are yet another example of the weirdness of the US position in Syria.

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The "defensive" strike was also an apparent signal to Assad to keep his forces out of a zone where US -backed rebels are fighting the Islamic State group.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said America's role in Syria's conflict was unchanged.

The official was "not sure" which forces were in the convoy but they "were clearly working with the Syrian" regime.

On Monday, Iran's state-run Fars News Agency claimed that Lebanese Hezbollah, a prominent IRGC-QC proxy, had deployed "12 regiments with 1,000 fighters" to southern Syria "to face the US-backed militants in al-Tanf border crossing".

Rebel officials said earlier this week that hundreds of troops and militiamen were advancing into the sparsely-populated desert region, in an apparent attempt to halt recent rebel gains against so-called Islamic State (IS).

A second USA defense official said that an additional strike did hit the convoy after the vehicles continued toward the base.

One opposition media group, the Palmyra News Network, says the attack at the Zarka juncture, about 27 kilometres from the border, destroyed a number of vehicles and led to casualties.

In September, however, waves of US -led coalition aircraft carried out a series of air strikes against the Syrian army positions near the Deir ez-Zor airport, killing 62 soldiers and wounding approximately one hundred others in what American commanders said was a case of mistaken identity.

Officially, U.S. -backed forces in Syria are anti-ISIS, not anti-regime.

Other reports by BadHub

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