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USA military conducts airstrike on pro-government forces in Syria

20 May 2017, 09:50 | Taylor George

USA military conducts airstrike on pro-government forces in Syria

UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy left and UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Syria Staffan de Mistura right attend a round of negotiation with Syria's main opposition High Negotiations Committee leader Nasr

The United States military has carried out an air strike against forces supported by the Syrian Government that posed a threat to US-coalition fighters in the country's south, US officials say.

They said in a statement that the Syrian forces "posed a threat" to U.S. and allied troops at Tanf base near the Syria-Iraq-Jordan border.

As long as the USA keeps backing anti-regime insurgents in Syria and is willing to attack pro-regime forces as part of that support, there will be a danger that an incident like this could lead to a larger conflict with the Syrian government and its patrons.

The official did not give a number for how many soldiers were killed and insisted that no other power has the right to decide in which areas the army can carry out operations.

"Whatever the reason for the US strike was, it was illegitimate and marked another flagrant violation of Syria's sovereignty", Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on a trip to Cyprus.

The Syrian Observervatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said eight fighters non-Syrian fighters were killed in the United States attack. A bulldozer and a tank were hit, but USA officials said it was unclear on Thursday whether they had struck the Syrian army or just militias allied with the government.

"They were potentially probing to see how close they could get to At Tanf", the official said.

That US attack on the Shayrat air base damaged or destroyed 20 percent of Syria's operational aircraft, as well as fuel and ammunition sites and air defence capabilities, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said at the time.

Strike is seen as defense and not signaling a switch in the U.S. strategy in Syria from fighting ISIS to fighting the Assad regime.

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Syria today condemned a US-led coalition strike on pro-government forces as a "brazen attack" and said it would "not be intimidated" after the surprise assault.

Coalition warplanes targeted a convoy of Syrian government forces and Iranian-backed militia close to the Iraq border on Thursday.

The development comes only a few days after USA jets killed almost two dozen civilians in an attack on an area in Syria's eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr near the border with Iraq.

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

"We discussed the massacre that the USA aggressor committed yesterday in our country", Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari said, referring to a conversation with United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura and referring to the USA action as "government terrorism". It added that the USA asked Russian Federation to pressure the Syrian army to stay nine miles away from their "illegitimate bases in Tanf".

Russian Federation and Syria have condemned U.S. airstrikes targeting anti-Daesh forces, saying the "brazen" attacks violate the Arab country's sovereignty and show Washington's claims of fighting terrorism are false.

The claim that Russian Federation was warned and was still unable to stop the convoy will call into question how much influence their commanders have over Assad and Iranian forces in parts of Syria.

He added that Moscow was "concerned" that the "emerging understanding" of the need to unite efforts against the Islamic State group and the former Nusra front is "starting to erode". In April US President Donald Trump ordered cruise missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Damascus.



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