U.S. Readies for Iranian Push in Southern Syria
A spokesman for the United States-led coalition battling the so-called Islamic State said on Thursday that the U.S. had widened its footprint in southern Syria in light of recent advances by Iranian proxies in the region, Reuters reported.
“We have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat presented by the pro-regime forces,” said U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, referring to troops backed by Iran who support Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
A large number of pro-government fighters have been deployed around the strategic southern town of Tanf, where British and U.S. special forces are training rebels for a campaign against ISIS. “We see that as a threat,” Dillon added.
Earlier this month, coalition aircraft struck a convoy of Iran-backed fighters near Tanf as it was advancing inside a protected “deconfliction” zone – a move that U.S. officials claimed was a defensive measure to protect their forces at Tanf airbase.
Thousands of Civilians Flee to Camp North of Raqqa
Roughly 10,000 civilians have fled the former capital of the so-called Islamic State to a refugee camp just north of Raqqa city, Reuters reported, citing Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
“It is not a massive exodus, but about 800 people a day are arriving in Ain Issa every day,” said Natalie Roberts, an emergency doctor from MSF France, referring to a camp in the village.
The camp, which sits halfway between the border town of Tell Abyad and ISIS-held Raqqa, is being managed by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, who are pressing on with an assault against the militant group in the province.
The SDF had initially intended to use the camp as a transit point for civilians fleeing ISIS-held territory in Raqqa, but a lack of other possible destinations and the need to register each person fleeing the militant stronghold has forced the Kurdish-led group to expand the camp beyond its 6,000-person capacity, Roberts added.
Coalition Airstrikes Kill Aamaq Founder
Alleged U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir ez-Zor have reportedly killed the founder of the so-called Islamic State’s media outlet.
Opposition activists told the Associated Press that the Aamaq agency founder, Baraa Kadek, died when an airstrike hit his home in the town of Mayadeen. His brother posted an announcement on Facebook, according to Reuters.
“I’m pleased to announce the martyrdom of my older brother Baraa Kadek, known as Rayan Meshaal … in an airstrike by the coalition,” his post said.
Associated Press: Short of Allies, Syria’s Rebels Are Down but Not Out
The Independent: On the Front Line of Iran’s Shadow War in Syria
Foreign Policy: Thinking Through U.S. Objectives in Syria
The Daily Star: Toward Securing Eastern Syria