U.S.-led Coalition Destroys pro-Government Forces within Deconfliction Zone in Syria – Pentagon*
The U.S.-led coalition inside Syria says that it has destroyed pro-government forces that entered the deconfliction zone established by the United States and Russia around a coalition training facility. The coalition last struck a pro-government convoy in the area on May 18.
“The Coalition destroyed additional pro-Syrian regime forces that advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone in southern Syria,” said a statement from the U.S. Central Command.
“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces but remains ready to defend themselves if pro-regime forces refuse to vacate the deconfliction zone.”
The deconfliction zone, with a radius of about 55 km, was established around the town of At Tanf, where the U.S. has set up base to train Special Forces for the final assault on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.
“Despite previous warnings, pro-regime forces entered the agreed-upon deconfliction zone with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers posing a threat to the Coalition and partner forces based at the At Tanf Garrison,” said the CENTCOM statement. “The Coalition issued several warnings via the deconfliction line prior to destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”
On May 18, the Coalition attacked a convoy of what the U.S. called “Iranian-directed troops,” who were moving in the direction of the training base, which houses several hundred US staff.
The bombardment was condemned by Damascus, which has repeatedly accused Washington and its allies of operating within its sovereign territory, and Moscow, which according to media reports, had tried to prevent the escalation of the standoff, relaying messages between the two sides.
The American attack occurred on the same day U.S.-backed militias launched an all-out assault on Raqqa which has served as the Islamic State’s unofficial “capital” since its capture in 2014. Raqqa is located 300 km to the north of At Tanf.
The battle for the city, where up to 4,000 ISIS fighters are still thought to be holed up, is expected to be quicker than the siege of Mosul, where fighting still continues eight months after the initial assault began. The International Rescue Committee says that 200,000 civilians are still trapped in Raqqa.