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US-led coalition strikes Syrian troops to halt advance on Al-Tanf

19 May 2017
A photograph released by Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawrah in April shows two of its fighters with a .50 calibre heavy machine gun. The rebel group reportedly co-ordinated the coalition airstrike against pro-government forces advancing on Al-Tanf. Source: Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawrah

In the first known move of its kind, the US-led coalition defended Syrian rebels by attacking pro-government forces in Syria on 18 May.

"The coalition struck pro-regime forces that were advancing well inside an established de-confliction zone … that posed a threat to US and partner forces at Al-Tanf," the coalition said in a statement. Al-Tanf is located close to where the Iraqi, Jordanian, and Syrian borders meet. The statement said coalition forces have been training and advising rebel forces in the Al-Tanf area for many months.

A Syrian opposition source reported that the coalition carried out an airstrike at the Zarka road junction 37 km from Al-Tanf, destroying four tanks, a Zu-23-4 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, and 12 other military vehicles. It said the airstrike was carried out in co-ordination with the Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawrah (Revolution Commandos Army) rebel group.

The coalition stated that the strike was carried out only after "apparent Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro-regime movement south towards Al-Tanf were unsuccessful", as well as after coalition aircraft carried out a "show of force" and fired warning shots.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that a coalition attack had killed an unspecified number of people and caused material damage on the road to Al-Tanf.

It cited an unidentified military source as saying it proved that the US-led coalition's claims to be fighting terrorism were false. "Those who claim to be fighting [terrorists] should direct strikes against them and not against the Syrian Arab Army, which is the only legitimate force that is fighting terrorism along with its allies and friends," the source said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov described the coalition strike as an "absolutely unacceptable" violation of Syria's sovereignty.

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