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12 February 2018, 01:36 | Damon Campbell
Syrian regime may attack Kurdish-led forces again in Deir al-Zor: SDF
Additionally, Turkey has threatened to launch a military operation against Manbij, Syria, a place where U.S. troops do work with local Kurdish and Arab fighters.
USA advisers called in a rare strike Thursday on Syrian-backed forces in Deir el-Zour, site of most of Syria's oil and gas fields.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said it was "not realistic" to impose a ceasefire because armed groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces were unlikely to uphold it. But Trump administration critics disagreed.
At least 75 people were killed in government airstrikes and artillery attacks on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus on Thursday, Agence France-Pressereported.
Asked whether the U.S. military was stumbling into Syria's broader conflict, Mattis said: "No".
Drones were also used in the counterattack by the American forces.
Mattis rejected Kaine's suggestion the U.S. is being drawn into a broader war.
The US, however, remained unmoved, promising to continue to support the US-allied forces in Syria "at any cost".
The coalition's move was in retaliation for the pro-Syrian government forces' targeting of the US-backed forces in the area, said the SDF.
This is essentially the Islamic State's last stand in Syria, having ceded most of its Syrian and Iraqi territory over the past couple of years. In other words, can we defend a non-state force under worldwide legal terms of self-defense when it comes under attack? It sees them as an existential threat to Turkey.
But Turkey's military said on Friday that its fighter jets bombed 19 targets belonging to "terrorists", including shelters, ammunition depots and gun positions, according to the AP.
The attack on Deir Ezzor is part of a steady ratcheting up of the multisided conflict in Syria, provoked overwhelmingly by Washington's announced decision to maintain a permanent United States military occupation of the country and pursue a "post-ISIS" policy centered on the original USA objectives of Syrian regime change and rolling back Iranian and Russian influence in the region. Whatever group wins out - the government, rebels or extremists such as IS - would be far less equipped than the United States to maintain stability, the American argument goes.
According to the US Central Command (CENTCOM), coalition advisers were present in the area that was attacked by pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor province late on Wednesday. By crossing the river, the fighters would have violated a "deconfliction" agreement between Washington and Moscow, approaching US-backed forces based near an oil field. However, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis dismissed the concerns, emphasizing that the actions of the coalition were done in self-defense.
The motive for the attack remains a mystery, Mattis said, as is the makeup of the attackers.
The strikes inflicted what could be the largest number casualties that the coalition has exacted against the pro-regime forces.
Russia's Foreign Ministry raised pointed questions about the United States version of events, particularly the vast disparity between the claim of 100 Syrian government troops killed and, on the other side, a total of one SDF fighter wounded.
Regime forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20-30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, where some U.S. troops were embedded, according to Pentagon press secretary Dana W. White.
"First of all, how could a 500-strong unit attack a headquarters with tank and artillery support and, as a result, inflict an injury on one counter-attacker?" asked Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
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