United States officials have confirmed that an air strike had been carried out against pro-Syrian goverment forces which had attacked the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in what it described as an unprovoked attack on allied Kurdish and Arab fighters. But he described the retaliatory USA -led coalition strikes as defensive and limited in nature.
"Pro-regime" forces that attacked a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters in northeastern Syria - and were hit in return by USA airstrikes - included Russian mercenaries, according to a Pentagon official.
"We're just making certain that it's turned over responsibly to the locals and that the locals have a seat at the table in Geneva", Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters last month, referring to the UN-led process that is seeking a peaceful resolution to the Syrian civil war.
Syrian state television reported that the coalition had caused "dozens of dead and wounded" by bombing pro-government forces. Over 500 pro-government fighter armed with tanks, mortars, artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems carried out the attack, according to an unnamed USA military personnel. The U.S. has long supported the Syrian Democratic Forces, often characterizing the group as "moderate", and crediting them for playing a significant role in the defeat of ISIS in Syria.
He said the attacking force was made up of about 300 troops with tanks and artillery. But a commander in the military alliance supporting Assad disputed the death toll, saying seven members of the pro-government forces were killed and 27 injured.
"We demand [that the global community] condemn this massacre and hold the coalition responsible for it", Syrian state news agency (SANA) reported, citing a letter sent by the foreign ministry to the UN.
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman said the aim of the attack appeared to be the capture of a key oil field and a major gas plant in an SDF-held area.
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The advancing forces were intending to seize nearby oilfields that the US-backed rebels captured from IS past year, Veale said.
But, the Trump administration says they will be staying put until there is a peace settlement to the wider war that includes a transition away from the rule of President Assad.
The U.S. has indicated the American military will not hesitate to defend itself from aggression from troops loyal to the Russian and Iranian-backed Assad regime.
One official said that assessment is based on information obtained from monitoring communications in the area and from drone surveillance.
Asked whether the US military was stumbling into Syria's broader conflict, Mattis said: "No". United States military personnel were at the base at the time, he said.
Mattis said the US was still trying Thursday to establish exactly who the attackers were but added that the Russians have said they did not have forces there and "you can't expect somebody to deconflict something they can't control".
Veale said the coalition had informed Russian Federation of the presence of pro-regime forces in the area before the attack via a hotline established as part of the de-confliction line agreement, adding that the coalition had observed a buildup of pro-regime troops over the past week. "Russian officials assured Coalition officials they would not engage Coalition forces in the vicinity".More news: A minimum of 6 useless, 88 lacking after robust quake hits Taiwan
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