U.S. airstrike hits pro-regime forces in Syria — Military official


US-led coalition aircraft bombed forces allied to the Syrian government on Thursday night, after they advanced too close to a base where Western special forces are training rebel fighters.

Prior to the airstrike, the US-led coalition had conducted "a show of force" and fired warning shots, coalition spokesperson confirmed to Sputnik.

The official said an earlier communication agreement between the United States and Russian Federation in Syria had included ways to avoid mishaps between ground forces, such as establishing a 55-kilometer border around known areas of operation.

Strikes were ordered after Russian Federation failed to dissuade the pro-regime forces from advancing, the command of the US-led coalition's Operation Inherent Resolve has announced. If that's the case, it might be an isolated incident, but it shows how easily the US can be pulled into a new conflict because of its support for opposition groups inside Syria and the decision to expand the unauthorized war on ISIS into Syria.

BuzzFeed News is the first to have reported U.S. confirmation that it launched these new strikes.

American aircraft struck a convoy of troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday, in a rare direct assault by the United States on forces affiliated with the Syrian government.

Russia also criticized the strike, with Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov Gatilov accusing the US on Friday of violating Syria's sovereignty and alleging the airstrike hit civilians, according to Russian media.

The American strikes were the first against Assad positions since the Pentagon rained 57 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat air base near Homs. Prior to the chemical attack in April, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others indicated that Assad may remain in power as part of a deal to end the ongoing civil war. Since then it has seen massive worldwide involvement and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and has resulted in almost 500,000 casualties, over 4 million refugees, and over 7 million internally displaced people.

The unnamed official's comments were carried by Syrian state TV one day after the US -led coalition said a USA airstrike struck pro-Syrian government forces it said posed a threat to American troops and allied rebels operating near the border with Jordan.

USA fighter jets fired on Syrian regime-backed forces Thursday after they breached a "de-confliction zone" near the country's border with Jordan.

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The base at At Tanf has been used by advisers from the US-led worldwide coalition to train "vetted Syrian Opposition" to aid the fight against ISIS.

One of the defense officials - who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details that the Pentagon had yet to make public - said that the U.S. acted to stop an advance of pro-regime forces toward Tanf. "The agreed upon de-confliction zone agreement remains in effect".

The official said the convoy was "significant" in size, but only the lead vehicles were hit.

The statement said the US claims that they have warned the forces from advancing before firing are completely rejected.

Separately, Syria's military supported by Russian Federation and Iranian-backed militias are fighting against the jihadist group, and against more moderate rebel factions in the south.

"We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian army and Iranians in this point and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy", Reuters quoted Muzahem al-Saloum from Maghawir al-Thawra as saying.

At the time, administration officials insisted the airfield strike did not represent a change in US strategy toward Syria, which has largely focused on the fight against ISIS.

Iranian troops are said to be commanding the pro-Assad forces and a number of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.

Said Seif, an official with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army Shahid Ahmed Abdo rebel group, said the U.S. intervention will help the rebels to hold their ground against any future incursions by the army and its Iranian backed militias.