US Launches First Direct Strike on Pro-Regime Troops in Syria


A coalition airstrike in Syria on Thursday targeted pro-regime forces who were threatening a coalition base where advisers train anti-Islamic State fighters, the US -led coalition command said.

The Syrian-allied forces were threatening US troops and allied rebel forces operating near the town of Al-Tanf on Syria's border with Jordan, and were hit with air strikes after Russian intervention and warning shots failed to deter them, the Pentagon said on May 18.

"The Syrian Arab Army is fighting terrorism on its territory, and no party has the right to determine the course of its operations", the source reportedly said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the United States action would hamper efforts to find a political solution to the conflict.

"Coalition forces have been operating in the At Tanf area for many months training and advising vetted partner forces engaged in the fight against ISIS", the statement said.

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A US defence official said the convoy had not responded to numerous warnings that it was "getting too close to coalition forces". The convoy was hit on Thursday as it neared a group of US-backed rebels and a Western special forces unit in Tanf.

The coalition-backed troops used "shows of force and warning shots" to try to get the pro-Syrian government force to move out of the area, according to the official. Pro-Assad outlets reported that the us -led coalition hit the Iranian-backed Imam Ali brigade.

A US defence official said the convoy had not responded to numerous warnings that it was "getting too close to coalition forces".

A State Department spokeswoman said on May 17 that the US would continue to pressure the Russian government to drop its support of the Assad regime.

Plans to establish de-confliction zones for Syria were guaranteed by Iran, Russia and Turkey in their most recent peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. Military Times quotes officials describing the targeted militia as "pro-regime" but "not directly associated with the Syrian government".

"They were potentially probing to see how close they could get to al Tanf", an anonymous U.S. official said.

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The attack takes place as pro-government forces advance on us -backed rebels in southern Syria in an apparent attempt to prevent them from expanding their foothold there.

A Syrian opposition media group, the Palmyra News Network, said there were casualties from the attack, which destroyed a number of vehicles.

The U.S. military does not speak with the Syrian government.

Defense Secretary James Mattis insisted the strikes do not represent a change in USA policy, but said US troops will defend themselves and partnered forces. Representatives of Syria's government and opposition High Negotiations Committee were in Switzerland for the sixth round of United Nations -backed peace negotiations, but there has been little sign of progress.

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