Syria conflict: U.S. in rare counter-strike after Deir al-Zour attack

Javier Stokes
February 12, 2018

The American officials added that the assault was carried out using mortars, multiple-launch rocket systems, heavy artillery which were all backed up by more than 500 soldiers from the pro-government faction.

Veale said that about "20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters" of the Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters before the US-backed fighters and coalition forces "targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes".

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova affirmed that the United States military presence in Syria poses a risky threat to the political process and territorial integrity of the country, while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the strike another violation of Syria's sovereignty by the US.

"While I am grateful that no USA or coalition members were harmed in the attack, I am gravely concerned that the Trump administration is purposefully stumbling into a broader conflict, without a vote of Congress or clear objectives", Kaine said.

The strikes came after the pro-regime militants initiated an attack against the headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Syria's state media say the US -led coalition has bombed government-backed troops in eastern Syria, citing reports of dozens killed and wounded.

SDF and government forces control areas on either side of the River Euphrates in Deir al-Zour province.

President Bashar al-Assad's government said through a state-run news agency that the coalition airstrike caused many casualties, labelling it an act of aggression.

Regime forces were likely attempting to take an oilfield near Khusham. The Russians assured the Americans the US -backed forces would not be harmed. The US had chosen this town to train local Syrian forces to fight IS.

Why did the pro-government forces attack?

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A USA military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the U.S. bombing killed about 100 troops, but Veale said the military did not have an exact number for the casualties.

One U.S. -backed SDF fighter was wounded in the exchange of strikes.

Russian, Turkish, and Iranian leaders reportedly planned to meet to discuss Syrian peace efforts. That official also said the military assesses that some of the Russian contractors were killed in the United States counterstrike.

However, the US -led coalition says it was acting in self-defense, citing a major attack on its allied Kurdish and Arab forces. "Russian officials assured Coalition officials they would not engage Coalition forces in the vicinity".

Moscow's rhetoric against Washington took on Thursday a different direction, when Russian Federation accused the U.S. military presence in Syria of being used to oust the regime.

The rare strikes against pro-regime forces were confirmed by the US-led coalition Operation Inherent Resolve, which is in the region targeting Islamic State.

As a result, 25 members of the pro-government unit were injured.

SANA says the local fighters were battling IS militants and the USA -backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the area.

Khusha is five miles east of the de-confliction line that separates Russian-backed and USA -backed forces in Syria.

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