Tension rises over U.S. airstrikes on pro-Assad regime convoy

Tension rises over U.S. airstrikes on pro-Assad regime convoy

The attack Thursday struck militants fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad as they advanced toward an air base manned by U.S. Special Forces and Washington-backed rebel groups close to the Jordanian border.

Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that it was Iranian, not Syrian forces, that were the targets of US airstrikes carried out Thursday in the southern part of the country, along the Iraqi border.

"On Thursday at 16:30, the so-called global coalition attacked one of the Syrian Arab Army's positions on the Al-Tanf road in the Syrian Badia region, producing a number of martyrs and causing material damage", a military source told Syrian state media yesterday.

This "flagrant aggression launched by the global coalition exposes the falsity of its allegation about fighting terrorism and undoubtedly demonstrates the reality of the Zionist-American project in the region", the Syrian official said. On the ground, the US presence in Syria is also becoming more visible, as American troops back Kurdish-led forces fighting the Islamic State.

The U.S. military carried out the air strike on Thursday against Iran-backed Shiite militia supported by the Syrian regime that posed a threat to U.S. and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters in the country's south, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Coalition officials initially tried to stem the advance of the Iranian convoy with a series of warning shots and USA aircraft carrying out a low flyover above the convoy in a show of force.

Syrian state media gave no precise toll in the attack, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported eight killed, with "most of them non-Syrian".

A member of US-backed rebel forces said the convoy included Syrian and Iranian-backed militias heading towards Al Tanf when it clashed with rebel forces.

Russian and Syrian officials Friday strongly condemned a USA airstrike on pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria a day earlier, calling it an act of aggression and rejecting the United States' justification for the attack. The region also housed some US -allied Syrian rebel groups.

Aerial bombardments have ebbed across Syria since early May, after Russia, Iran and Turkey backed a deal to freeze fighting between government and rebel forces across four "de-escalation zones".

Coalition forces have operated in the al Tanf area for many months training and advising vetted partner forces who are fighting ISIS. The sixth round of talks in Geneva was the latest effort to bring a political solution to the war, which has displaced millions and claimed more than 320,000 lives since 2011.

The United States has not spoken about any strikes carried out by the US-led coalition on that date.

Pro-government forces in Syria were advancing on the position of the coalition under the control of the Iranians, believed in the Pentagon. "This is the only result from this round", Jaafari said.

Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with widespread demonstrations against Assad, but has since evolved into a bloody war that has drawn in world powers on all sides. On state television, an unnamed government official described it as a "flagrant aggression" by the "American-Zionist project in the region".

Gatilov held a series of meetings throughout the week with the government and opposition delegations as well as de Mistura.

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