Damascus: The US-led coalition said it conducted a defensive strike the other day against an unprovoked attack near the Euphrates River by hundreds of troops aligned with the Syrian regime, backed by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars, a step revealing Washington’s plan to draw a red line for Damascus and Russia.
“Coalition service members in an advise, assist, and accompany capacity were co-located with SDF partners during the attack eight kilometers east of the agreed-upon Euphrates River de-confliction line,” the statement read.
It added that the coalition then “conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression against partners engaged in the Global Coalition’s defeat-ISIS mission.”
Commenting on what happened in Deir Ezzor, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described the attack on the US-backed fighters as “perplexing.”
“I’m not sure why [regime forces] would do this, because it was [an SDF] headquarters,” Mattis said, adding that the Russians told the US military they did not have forces there.
A US official said late Wednesday that more than 100 forces loyal to Bashar Assad, were killed in the attack by the US-backed SDF in Deir Ezzor province.
Meanwhile, Russia escalated its rhetoric and expanded its accusations against Washington’s movements in Syria. In a statement issued Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the US military presence in Syria “poses a threat to the peace operation and menaces the unity of the country.”
Also, the Russian Defense Ministry lashed out at the US attack. A ministry statement said that the US strike wounded 25 Syrian pro-regime fighters it said were searching for militants near an oil refinery. Moscow’s rhetoric against Washington took on Thursday a different direction, when Russia accused the US military presence in Syria of being used to oust the regime.
“The recent incident once again shows that the United States’ illegal military presence in Syria is actually aimed at taking control of the country’s economic assets and not at fighting against ISIS,” a statement said.