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IS fighters attack government-held areas in central Syria

19 May 2017, 10:43 | Taylor George

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US-led coalition aircraft struck a pro-regime convoy apparently transporting Shia militia men in Syria as it headed toward a remote coalition garrison near the Jordanian border last night, United States officials said.

The coalition has described Thursday's strike as a defensive action that does not change the US policy of focusing military efforts on defeating ISIS.

The strike took place a few miles from the armed opposition rebel base in the town of al-Tanf, where American and British special forces are training rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad.

AFP reports that the US military took out a "lead section" of the convoy, as American officials said the strike hit tanks, technical vehicles, and fighters in the convoy.

Thursday's strike marks a noticeable shift on USA policy in the country, which previously only primarily focused on going after jihadi groups such as the Islamic State, and not the Iran-Assad-Hezbollah-Shia militia coalition that is also operating in Syria.

Thursday's strike was the coalition's first on pro-Assad forces in the battlefield. Other reports say that Hezbollah and Iranian forces are gathered near the strike area.

Syrian state media gave no precise toll in the attack, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported eight killed "most of them non-Syrian".

Two months of US -backed rebel advances against Islamic State militants have allowed them to secure swaths of territory in the Badia, alarming the Syrian government and its allies.

Syria said the strikes were a "blatant attack on forces fighting terrorism", while Russian Federation said they breached the country's sovereignty.

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"Literally a day before this (Thursday's strike) a strike was carried out which resulted in a large number of civilian deaths, which is also unacceptable", Gatilov was cited as saying.

A United States defense official told Sputnik that the US-led coalition struck the Syrian army near the town of At Tanf in the area of an established safe zone backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

The coalition said "apparent" Russian attempts to stop pro-Assad forces from moving towards Tanf, as well as warning shots and a show of force, had failed.

"We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian army and Iranians in this point and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy", the Pentagon-backed rebel group called the Maghawir al Thwra told Reuters.

"No. We are not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war".

The statement said the US claims that they have warned the forces from advancing before firing are completely rejected.

The target was a militia convoy of 27 vehicles, and there were several casualties, reported the UK Telegraph.

Later, Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis stressed that U.S. is not getting more involved in Syria's civil war.



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