US-led coalition troops came under attack by Syrian forces loyal to President Assad which prompted artillery and air strikes in retaliation, killing 100 pro-regime fighters, said a spokesman for the US coalition on Wednesday.
The coalition said the strikes had been carried out after forces allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “initiated an unprovoked attack” against a well-established Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters where coalition advisers were working with US-backed Syrian fighters.
Some 500 pro-regime troops carried out the attack using artillery, mortar fire and Russian-made tanks, a US military official said.
“Syrian pro-regime forces maneuvered T-54 and T-72 main battle tanks with supporting mortar fire in what appears to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces approximately 8 kilometers east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham, Syria,” the military official said.
The official said that about “20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters” of the Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters before the US-backed fighters and coalition forces “targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes.”
The official said no coalition or US personnel had been killed or wounded in the engagement but that one member of the Syrian Democratic Forces was wounded.
He said the coalition suspected that pro-regime forces were attempting to seize territory, including lucrative oil fields, that the Syrian Democratic Forces had liberated from ISIS in September.
They “were likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for Daesh from 2014 to 2017,” the official said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
While rumors persist, that Russian contractors were with the loyal forces of Assad attacking the coalition, that hasn’t been confirmed. Nor has the fact that those forces were from an Iranian militia fighting for Assad.
The U.S. had been in contact with Russian forces on the agreed upon hotline and informed them that the pro-regime forces were building up near the de-confliction line but what the Russians did was unknown.
Coalition forces did not fire on pro-regime forces that returned across the river.
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