Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

U.S. launch airstrike on pro-Assad forces in Syria

U.S. launch airstrike on pro-Assad forces in Syria

The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Thursday against militia supported by the Syrian government that posed a threat to U.S. -backed fighters in the country's south, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday. The U.S. -led coalition operates a training facility there for Syrian opposition forces fighting ISIS.

There is a Syrian regime base nearby, the official said, adding that forces there are equipping to handle about a battalion's worth of troops.

One of the US officials said the strikes near the town of At Tanf destroyed at least one tank and a bulldozer, and another said it followed warning shots by USA aircraft meant to dissuade the fighters from advancing further.

The airstrike occurred after a convoy of pro-Assad militia forces appeared to be headed toward at-Tanf, a town located near Syria's southeastern border with Iraq, according to the US official.

In one incident, 27 regime vehicles drove within 18 miles of al-Tanf, which breached the 34 mile radius of the army convoy.

The coalition said the de-confliction zone "remains in effect".

But last month, it launched a barrage of missiles at Syria's Shayrat airbase, which it said was the launchpad for an alleged chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians.

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Last month, US-led allied forces and Syrian rebels thwarted a significant IS attack on the base. The agency says women and children were among the dead, and that some were beheaded.

-Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington.

A DoD official told Voice of America that the strikes were "not a change in policy but [an] instance of [a] commander on the ground's decision for force protection".

Control of Hama province is divided between the government, rebel forces and IS, which is present mostly in the east of the area. They were raised to fight Isis, but have also been positioned as a bulwark against Iran-backed forces that have crossed from Iraq and been instrumental in recent gains made across Syria by the Assad regime.

But the United Nations said Thursday the warring sides had agreed to set up expert committees to discuss "constitutional issues".

The villages are located near the town of Salamiyeh and the highway that links the capital, Damascus, to the northern city of Aleppo, but state media said traffic was not affected. Aamaq claimed that 100 Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen were killed in the fighting.

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