U.S. strikes Syria militia threatening U.S.-backed forces


Earlier today, pro-Iranian government media outlets had reported that 3,000 Hezbollah fighters were deployed to the Al-Tanf region to protect the area from "US interests". The U.S. -led coalition operates a training facility there for Syrian opposition forces fighting ISIS.

"No. We are not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war".

"And that is a coalition element made up of more than just United States troops, and so we will defend ourselves (if) people take aggressive steps against us".

USA officials said earlier Thursday the strike had hit a tank and a bulldozer and forces there.

The coalition statement late on Thursday says the coalition hit the pro-Syrian government forces after warning shots, a show of force and similar efforts by Russian Federation failed to dissuade those troops from moving into the "de-conflicted area".

While contact with ISIS units is to be expected considering the mission, this is the first instance of American air power being used against pro-Assad forces to support American troops and their rebel allies. The coalition had so far kept its military operations focused on Islamic State militants and al-Qaida-linked groups.

Unlike the USA strike against the al-Shayrat air base in March, which the Trump administration ordered in retaliation for a regime chemical weapons attack, Thursday's strike seemed created to protect the U.S. forces based at Tanf.

An increasingly visible USA role in Syria has also raised the possibilities of friction with the various forces on the ground.

A convoy of USA forces armoured vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli, on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5, 2017.

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The US didn't exactly mince words about the brushback pitch.

Control of Hama province is divided between the government, rebel forces and IS, which is present mostly in the east of the area.

Pro-Assad Shia militias backed by Iran have historically operated in that area.

Tensions have been building as part of a race for control of territory stretching from the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour in northeastern Syria to the Iraq border.

U.S. warplanes have struck Syrian pro-regime forces in a mission to protect British and American troops in the country's southeast.

The pro-regime convoy had entered a so-called de-confliction zone to the northwest of at-Tanf and had apparently ignored Russian requests to turn away. The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

Mozahem Salloum, spokesman for the Army of the Revolution's Commandos, said in a Facebook post that 17 vehicles were destroyed in the attack, including four tanks.

Other activists said eight people had been killed and two were wounded.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.