Coalition: More Than 100 Pro-Government Fighters Killed in East Syria After Thwarted Attack
The U.S.-led coalition and its local partners killed more than 100 pro-government fighters on Wednesday after foiling what appeared to be a coordinated government attack on U.S.-backed forces in eastern Syria, CNN reported.
The coalition airstrikes and shelling on Syrian government loyalists came after pro-government forces “initiated an unprovoked attack” against a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters in Deir Ezzor province. The attack occurred 5 miles (8km) east of a “de-confliction” line designed to separate Russian-backed government troops and U.S.-backed forces in Syria, CNN said, citing a coalition statement.
An unidentified U.S. official told CNN that some 500 pro-government forces were involved in the attack. It was not immediately clear whether the force comprised mostly Syrian troops or Iranian-backed militias.
They “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 anonymous U.S. official said.
Between 20 and 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 1,600ft (500m) of the SDF base before coalition forces retaliated by targeting pro-government forces with a barrage of airstrikes and artillery, the official said, describing the coalition response as an act of “self-defense.”
He said no U.S. personnel or coalition members had been wounded, although one SDF fighter was injured in the confrontation.
The coalition suspects pro-government forces of trying to wrest control over areas the SDF captured from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in September, including lucrative gas and oil fields, the official said. They “were likely seeking to seize oil fields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for Daesh from 2014 to 2017,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
More Than 30 Killed in Eastern Ghouta Airstrikes
Airstrikes and artillery attacks on Eastern Ghouta killed at least 36 people on Wednesday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.
Wednesday’s attacks on the besieged rebel enclave are part of an ongoing aerial campaign that has killed dozens of civilians since Monday.
At least 80 people were killed in airstrikes on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus on Tuesday in what SOHR director Rami Abdulrahman said was “the highest civilian toll in Syria in nearly nine months, and one of the bloodiest days for Eastern Ghouta in several years,” according to Agence France-Presse.
The besieged suburbs are home to some 400,000 people who are trapped with little access to food and medicine. The Syrian government stepped up attacks on Eastern Ghouta in late December. According to the SOHR, more than 400 people have been killed by airstrikes and artillery attacks on the rebel holdout since December 29.
OPCW Probing Alleged Chemical Attacks
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is probing the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria after reports claimed they were deployed in recent attacks by Damascus, AFP reported on Wednesday.
The OPCW’s statement comes after medics and rescue workers in Idlib province this week alleged that at least nine people suffered from breathing problems after a purported chlorine gas attack on the opposition stronghold. Last month, activists in Eastern Ghouta reported 21 cases of suffocation following an alleged chemical weapons attack on the suburb of Douma.
A fact-finding mission mandated “to establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals … is investigating all credible allegations,” the OPCW said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that such reports continue “to be of a grave concern” to the organization, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said on Wednesday that “all indications show us today that the Syrian regime is using chlorine gas at the moment,” the Associated Press reported.
“An investigation has been opened on that matter by the United Nations,” Le Drian was quoted as saying by the AP. “The threat of using chemical weapons remains, this is a very serious situation.”
- NPR: Why Civilians Are Being Targeted in Syria Airstrikes
- Associated Press: At U.S. Outpost in Syria, U.S. General Backs Kurdish Fighters
- Agence France-Presse: Key Facts on Suspected Chemical Attacks in Syria
- Financial Times: No Winners in Syria After Seven Years of Savagery
- The Washington Post: Anger and Fear Along Turkey’s Border as Offensive Brings the War Back Home