Pentagon Official Describes Response to Attack by Pro-Regime Syrian Forces

Pentagon Official Describes Response to Attack by Pro-Regime Syrian Forces

The comments by Mattis came on the heel of deadly US-led coalition air strikes which killed some 100 pro-Syrian government forces.

About 2000 United States forces remain on the ground in Syria, allied to the Kurdish-led SDF alliance.

The heavy death toll underscored the large size of the attack, which the United States official said included about 500 opposing forces, backed by air support, artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.

Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity, she said.

The US-led coalition responded with "AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery", according to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson.

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At least 75 people were killed in government airstrikes and artillery attacks on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.

US defense secretary Jim Mattis also played down the coalition strikes by describing them as defensive and limited in nature, while dismissing claims that the USA was stumbling into a broader conflict in Syria, Reuters said.

"After 20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF headquarters location, Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the Coalition targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes", said Veale, reported Politico.

The pro-government forces were "likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham" east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province, a U.S. official said.

According to Russia's Ministry of Defense, the advancing pro-regime forces had not coordinated with Russian officials in the area. "The incident was caused by uncoordinated reconnaissance and search operations plans of the Syrian militias with the Russian command task force in the locality of Salhiyah".

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Keeping US forces on the ground in areas that President Bashar Assad's government hopes to reclaim inherently increases the probability of more clashes.

The coalition's move was in retaliation for the pro-Syrian government forces' targeting of the US-backed forces in the area, said the SDF. "We had a very productive conversation", said Pentagon spokesperson Dana White.

But Turkey's military said on Friday that its fighter jets bombed 19 targets belonging to "terrorists", including shelters, ammunition depots and gun positions, according to the AP. In other words, can we defend a non-state force under global legal terms of self-defense when it comes under attack?

To the west, the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, which came in response to USA plans to organize a 30,000-strong "border security force" based largely on the Kurdish YPG and create what Ankara sees as a de facto Kurdish state on its border, threatens to escalate into a direct conflict between the U.S. and Turkey, ostensible North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

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