United States airstrike hits pro-Syria government forces for first time

Cheryl Sanders
May 24, 2017

American warplanes operating in Syria carried out airstrikes against government forces near the Iraqi border Thursday, officials from the US -led coalition battling the Islamic State confirmed.

"The Syrian army will not be prevented by any force on earth from continuing its duty in fighting anyone that tries to occupy Syria", the SCMM said.

The airstrike targeted a tank and two earth movers that were building fighting positions within the defensive zone, the official said.

The rebels being trained at al-Tanf are from a number of Arab rebel groups, referred to by the U.S.as Vetted Syrian Opposition, or VSO, who oppose both the Assad regime and ISIS.

The militia were struck after they had advanced to about 17 miles (27 km) from the base.

US Air Force jets fired at troops advancing on a "de-confliction zone" near Al Tanf, where elite United Kingdom soldiers on a training mission are based.

Pro-government forces in Syria were advancing on the position of the coalition under the control of the Iranians, believed in the Pentagon.

Gatilov, who was speaking in Geneva, was cited as saying that the USA strike would hamper efforts to find a political solution to the conflict there.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that the US strike was defensive in nature. But the latest move showed that the area around the Tanf garrison in southern Syria could be under pressure.

Al Tanf is part of a region known as the Badia, a vast, sparsely populated desert area that stretches to the Jordanian and Iraqi borders.

The Syrian government called the airstrikes a "blatant attack on forces fighting terrorism" on state television.

IS fighters also launched an offensive against Assad-held territory in the western province of Hama, seeking to take control of a strategic supply route leading to the nation's largest city Aleppo. The U.S. military attacked a Syria-government airfield with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on April 6 in response to a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians, including children.

It was the first close confrontation between the U.S. military and forces supporting Mr Assad.

In a statement, the coalition said the strike had occurred "well inside" an established de-confliction zone northwest of the At-Tanf garrison, where British and USA commandos have been training and advising local forces fighting IS.

Both forces have said they are trying to push Islamic State fighters out of the area. Last month, the U.S. The area has been considered a de-conflicted zone under an agreement between the US and Russian Federation earlier this month. The commander made a decision to call in an airstrike after warnings were not heeded by the pro-Syrian government force, he added.

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