Published: Thu, May 25, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Russia 'Attempted to Dissuade' Syrian Army From al-Tanf Before Coalition Strikes

The official said that the aerial "aggression" near the border with Jordan killed several soldiers and caused material damage.

A member of the US-backed Syrian rebel forces told reporters the strikes hit a convoy of Syrian and Iranian-backed militias that were heading toward a base used by American and US-supported forces.

The convoy was believed to have been about 17 miles away from the base when it was hit.

The attack left 52 people dead, including more than two dozen women and children, some of whom were beheaded, as well as Syrian troops, the monitoring group said.

In its announcement of the strike, the coalition said it targeted "pro-regime forces".

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said America's role in Syria's conflict was unchanged.

Meanwhile, Yehya al-Aridi, a spokesman for the foreign-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee holding talks with a Syrian government delegation in Geneva, "welcomed" the United States strike as a "robust action" against pro-government fighters in the war-torn country.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. will defend its troops in case of "aggressive" steps against them.

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The forces came within a 34-mile defensive zone around the at-Tanf base in southern Syria, according to the command.

Thursday's strike occurred inside an established "deconfliction zone" northwest of the At-Tanf garrison, where British and U.S. commandos have been training and advising local forces fighting the Islamic State terror group.

IS fighters also launched an offensive against Assad-held territory in the western province of Hama, seeking to take control of a strategic supply route leading to the nation's largest city Aleppo.

The U.S. -led coalition did not signal it would cede ground around Tanf.

However, the Al Tanf attack raises questions about the ongoing feasibility for the US-led coalition to maintain its singular focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

One of the defense officials - who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details that the Pentagon had yet to make public - said that the USA acted to stop an advance of pro-regime forces toward Tanf.

"They are testing USA military resolve", he said. The area has been considered a de-conflicted zone under an agreement between the USA and Russian Federation earlier this month.

Aside from the April cruise missile strike, the coalition-backed forces have avoided contact with Assad regime forces.

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