Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Pro-Syrian forces hit in strike posed threat


A US aircraft conducted an airstrike Thursday on a pro-Assad regime militia convoy that appeared to be moving on a USA coalition training base in southeastern Syria, according to a USA official.

USA and coalition officials assert that the Russians "apparently" attempted to dissuade the convoy from entering the area, that they first fired warning shots and deployed two United States aircraft as a show of force, and only struck the convoy after it failed to heed the warning, as a means of protecting usa and coalition forces.

Thirteen of the vehicles apparently breached the "de-confliction zone" around the base, an area that the coalition has communicated to Moscow to stay well clear of.

The strike took place a few miles away 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.

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The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Syrian and Iranian-backed militiamen were reportedly moving towards the Tanf base, which is used by rebel fighters and Western special forces personnel.

One of the USA officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, speculated that the group might have been trying to establish a position near the garrison in Syria used by US and USA -backed forces around the town of At Tanf. Rather, the strike was a proportionate response done for purposes of force protection-an act of self-defense in an effort to protect US forces.

Concerns over the long-term implications of the USA presence, for example, led the regime to oppose an expanded role for the Syrian opposition in the fight against ISIS, especially in Raqqa, the terror group's de facto capital.

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-Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington.

Syrian opposition activists say a suspected coalition airstrike has hit a convoy of pro-government forces in the desert near the border with Jordan. The U.S.at the time said it was a mistake, as it was targeting IS positions. But the strikes confirmed Thursday were believed to be the first targeting Syrian personnel. The official was not authorized to talk publicly on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Muhannad al-Talla, commander of Maghawir al-Thawrah, the Pentagon-backed rebel group embedded with USA and British Special Forces at al-Tanf, agreed with this assessment, and with the idea of an Iranian ground corridor. Trump was once skeptical about USA -backed anti-Assad rebels, saying in a 2015 debate that "we have no idea who they are", that many may in fact be ISIS, and that in any event "we can't be fighting ISIS and fighting Assad".

The Revolutionary commandoes or Maghaweer al-Thawra, a USA -backed group, shared a report about the airstrike on their Twitter account. The coalition had so far kept its military operations focused on Islamic State militants and al-Qaida-linked groups. That thinking changed in April with the missile strike fired against Assad's air force in response to Assad's deadly chemical weapons attack. There is a new government offensive underway in the country's east, in an area where U.S-backed rebels are also fighting against IS.

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U.S. and United Kingdom special forces have been training Syrian rebels at a heavily fortified base in al Tanf.

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