U.S. Warplanes Strike Iranian-Backed Forces in Southern Syria for Second Time
Iranian-backed supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad were struck by U.S. airstrikes Tuesday, as they advanced near a protected “de-confliction” zone in southern Syria, Reuters reported.
“Despite previous warnings, pro-regime forces entered the agreed-upon de-confliction zone with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers,” the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement carried by Reuters.
Tuesday’s attack marks the second time in less than three weeks that Iranian proxies in Syria have been targeted by U.S. warplanes near a training camp for U.S.-backed rebels in the southern Syrian town of Tanf.
U.S. officials maintain the claim that the airstrikes are a defensive measure to protect their forces at Tanf airbase.
A Syrian military source told Reuters that Tuesday’s strike had caused deaths and material damage and indicated that the coalition was “in support of terrorism.”
A U.S. official told the Associated Press that two artillery pieces and an anti-aircraft weapon and a tank were damaged or destroyed in Tuesday’s attack.
Last week, a spokesman for the U.S-led coalition battling the so-called Islamic State said that the U.S. had increased its combat power in southern Syria in light of recent advances by Iranian proxies in the region.
A number of Iranian-backed supporters of the Syrian government have been massing around Tanf, since a previous U.S. airstrike on pro-Assad forces on May 18.
SDF Launches Anticipated Raqqa Assault
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officially launched a highly anticipated offensive to capture the so-called Islamic State’s former de-facto capital in Syria, advancing toward Raqqa from three sides, Reuters reported.
SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters that the operation began on Monday and the fighting would be brutal because ISIS militants “will die to defend their so-called capital.”
SDF commander Rojda Felat told Reuters that SDF fighters were attacking the al-Mishlab district at the city’s southeastern outskirts Tuesday.
Clashes between SDF forces and ISIS militants also took place near an ISIS-held base known as Division 17, which lies roughly 0.6 miles (1km) north of the city, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The monitoring group said that SDF forces were also advancing on ISIS-held positions west of Raqqa, but did not specify an exact location.
The Kurdish-led force has been advancing on the ISIS stronghold since November, with support from U.S.-coalition warplanes.
Pro-Government Forces Push Into Raqqa Province
Syrian government forces and affiliated paramilitary groups reached the provincial borders of Raqqa Tuesday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
According to the monitoring group, Syrian pro-government forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah captured two villages from ISIS militants in western Raqqa province Tuesday, after securing positions on the western banks of the Euphrates River in Aleppo.
The government advance coincides with the invigorated push by the SDF toward Raqqa’s provincial capital.
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- The Christian Science Monitor: At Remote Desert Garrison in Syria, a U.S.-Iranian Confrontation Is Brewing
- Al-Monitor: Jordan Pins Hopes on U.S.-Russian Accord on Southern Syria
- The Associated Press: Q&A: Offensive Against ISIS-Held Raqqa Has Been Long in Coming