“In defense of Coalition and partner forces, the Coalition conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression against partners engaged in the Global Coalition’s defeat-Daesh (Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) mission,” the Central Command said in a press release.
The retaliatory attack was carried out after Syrian “pro-regime forces initiated an unprovoked attack against well-established Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters,” the coalition claimed.
The US-led coalition has also firmly stressed its “non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,” since its service members are embedded with the “partners” on ground in Syria.
While there were no immediate reports of casualties on either side, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that the coalition repelled a massive attack by pro-government fighters armed to the teeth with tanks and artillery. “Syrian pro-regime forces included approximately 500 personnel in a large, dismounted formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars,” the source said, claiming that more than 100 of those fighters were killed.
The confrontation reportedly took place some eight kilometers east of the Euphrates River “deconfliction line.”
Wednesday’s incident is the latest of its kind involving the US-supported rebels and Syrian government forces. Washington remains under the impression that the coalition air force and its “partners” are allowed to operate east of the Euphrates, while the Syrian forces should remain west of the imaginary demarcation line.
Damascus has repeatedly stated that the US coalition presence on its soil is an act of aggression and a violation of the country’s sovereignty. The Russian and Syrian air forces are the only ones officially allowed to operate in Syria. In fact, the government of Syria has repeatedly asked the United Nations to urge the US to leave, particularly following the virtual defeat of Islamic State terrorist group. However, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has instead promised that US troops will remain in Syria indefinitely to counter Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iran’s influence in the region.
The US-led coalition also mulled creating a 30,000-strong border force to secure control of the territory held by their partners in Syria. Since the force would include the Kurdish-dominated SDF alliance, the idea triggered a strong backlash from Turkey, forcing Ankara to initiate ‘Operation Olive Branch’ to secure a buffer “safe zone” in Syria.
Washington seems to have departed from its publicly stated goal of fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and is ready to partition Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned earlier on Wednesday.
“It’s very likely that the Americans have taken a course of dividing the country. They just gave up their assurances, given to us, that the only goal of their presence in Syria – without an invitation of the legitimate government – was to defeat Islamic State and the terrorists,” Lavrov said.
“Now they are saying that they will keep their presence till they make sure a steady process of a political settlement in Syria starts, which will result in regime change,” the minister said during a conference in Sochi.