The U.S. led coalition in Syria, combating ISIS, conducted air strikes on Wednesday, killing more than 100 pro-regime forces, the coalition’s statement said.
The statement also said that the strikes were motivated by the “unprovoked attack” that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces initiated against a Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters, where coalition advisers were working with U.S.-backed Syrian fighters.
According to a U.S. military official, the attack was carried out by about 500 pro-regime troops who used artillery, mortar fire and Russian-made tanks.
“Syrian pro-regime forces maneuvered T-54 and T-72 main battle tanks with supporting mortar fire in what appears to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces approximately 8 kilometers east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham, Syria,” the official said.
He added that around “20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters” of the headquarters before the U.S.-backed fighters and coalition forces “targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes.”
“We estimate more than 100 Syrian pro-regime forces were killed while engaging (Syrian Democratic Forces) and Coalition forces. This action was taken in self-defense,” the official further stated, adding that they didn’t target pro-government forces that returned across the river.
No coalition or U.S. personnel had been killed or injured in the engagement. The official added that there were previous suspicions that pro-regime forces intended to seize territory which had been liberated from ISIS by the Syrian Democratic Forces, including “oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for Daesh from 2014 to 2017.”
Another official said that the U.S. is looking into whether Russian contractors operating in the vicinity might have been involved, even though, he added, there was no evidence for now that the Russians had fired on the Syrian Democratic Forces facility.
The coalition “cannot speculate on the exact makeup of the Syrian pro-regime forces who conducted the attack at this time,” the US military official said, referring to the fact that they have not ruled out that Iranian-backed forces may have been involved as well.