US forces have for the first time bombed a convoy of Syrian government and Iranian-backed militia forces after Russian Federation was unable to keep them from entering an area where USA allies have been preparing to battle the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, the Pentagon says.
Coalition planes struck pro-regime forces that were advancing inside a protected "deconfliction zone" north-west of the al-Tanf area, the military alliance said in a statement.
The US-led coalition struck a convoy of military vehicles belonging to Shia militias loyal to the Syrian government near the border in Jordan on Thursday, according to US officials.
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 U.S. acted to stop an advance of pro-regime forces toward Tanf. Still, the strike prompted debate among lawmakers about the USA role in the war and whether it was time for Congress to take up a new war authorization.
According to USA military commanders, the strike was carried out in response to the entry of the regime-allied forces into a "de-escalation zone" in which US and allied forces were operating.
Western intelligence sources told Reuters that U.S. and British special forces are expanding the Tanf base to oust Islamic State militants from the eastern province of Deir Zor, that straddles Iraq, from the south east of Syria.
A deadly combination of human error, bad intelligence and an increasingly complicated battlefield led to the mistaken bombing of Syrian government troops by American and coalition aircraft in September.
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On April 7, US President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons which reportedly killed dozens of civilians, including many children, in Khan Sheikhun, Idlib province, in Northwest Syria.
"Such actions that were carried out against the Syrian armed forces. this is completely unacceptable". It is unclear whether Russian troops were operating with the pro-Syrian government forces at the time of the attack.
But it highlights the growing complexity of the battlefield in Syria, where multiple forces are engaged in fighting for varying reasons and amid ever-shifting alliances. The United States has been using the area to train its partnered local forces.
United States and UK special forces have been training Syrian rebels at a heavily fortified base in al Tanf.
Syria's state news agency SANA said 52 Aqareb residents were killed by Islamic State militants in the attack.
The observatory said it was the most violent IS attack so far this year.