The US military has carried out an air strike against Syrian pro-government fighters who posed a threat to US-backed forces in the country’s south near the Jordan border, US officials say.
The US official said on Thursday that the strikes near the town of At Tanf destroyed at least one tank and a bulldozer, while another official said they followed warning shots by US aircraft meant to dissuade the fighters from advancing further.
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The US officials stressed the defensive strike did not signal deepening US involvement in Syria’s civil war.
Charles Stratford, reporting from the bordering Turkish city of Gaziantep, said called the attacks are “worrying” development very close to the Iraqi border.
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“We are beginning to get some reaction from the Syrian pro-government media saying that they were pro-government militias in this convoy which was made up of five T62 tanks, two of those tanks were destroyed and six people were killed and three wounded,” he said.
Mohammed Jamjoon, reporting from Geneva, said reactions from the military and political side at the Geneva talks started pouring in after the air strikes.
“The military side’s reaction on the air strikes is that the US-led coalition will not allow the Iranian militias to reach the border between Syria and Iraq to have an opportunity to connect with Iranian militias that are on the Iraqi side,” he said
“They source within the military side also said that the americans will have to protect their position because that would be a tantamount to a withdrawal which would leave the front line to ISIL and the Iranian militias.”
The conflict began in 2011 after mass protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad and has killed hundreds of thousands of people, driven half the country’s population from their homes and dragged in world powers.
However, the Al Tanf attack raises questions about the ongoing feasibility for the US-led coalition to maintain its singular focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Earlier on Thursday, Syrian state media and a Britain-based war monitor said ISIL fighters attacked villages near the only useable road that links the government-controlled cities of Aleppo and Homs, killing many residents.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 52 people, civilians and fighters on both sides, were killed and dozens injured in the attacks.
At least 15 of the victims were civilians, including five children, and three of them died in execution-style killings, SOHR said.
State-run SANA news agency said ISIL killed 20 people in the village of Aqarib al-Safi, east of Hama city, before the army and allied militia repulsed the attack.
The SOHR said ISIL, also known as ISIS, seized Aqarib al-Safi and parts of the nearby village of al-Mabouja as the clashes raged.
ISIL confirmed on social media that its fighters had captured Aqarib al-Safi.
Syrians’ suffering persists after returning to former ISIL-held town
Elsewhere in Syria, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters has seized 350sq km over the past week in Raqqa province, “tightening the noose” on ISIL in an advance to isolate its base of operations, a spokesman for a US-led coalition said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the alliance, has been encircling Raqqa, ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria, since November.
Last week, its forces accomplished a major goal by capturing Tabqa, a previously ISIL-held town about 50km west of Raqqa, and a strategic dam nearby.
Source: News agencies
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