Syria, Russia condemn US-led coalition strike

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)  in the town of Tabqa.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the town of Tabqa. PHOTO: AFP

DAMASCUS • Syria has condemned a United States-led coalition strike on pro-government forces as a "brazen attack" and said it would "not be intimidated".

US-led warplanes carried out the Thursday strike in the east of the country against a convoy of pro-government forces headed towards a remote coalition garrison near the border with Jordan.

"On Thursday at 16:30, the so-called international coalition attacked one of the Syrian Arab Army's positions on the Al-Tanf road in the Syrian Badia region, producing a number of martyrs and causing material damage," a military source told Syrian state media yesterday.

"This brazen attack by the so-called international coalition exposes the falseness of its claims to be fighting terrorism," it added.

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"The Syrian Arab Army is fighting terrorism on its territory, and no party has the right to determine the course of its operations," the source said.

Syrian ally Russia also denounced the US-led strike as "unacceptable".

In a statement, the US-led coalition said it had struck "pro-regime forces... that posed a threat to US and partner forces".

The coalition said the strike came after unsuccessful "Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro- regime movement" as well as "a coalition aircraft show of force, and the firing of warning shots".

Syrian state media gave no precise toll in the attack, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported eight killed, with "most of them non-Syrian".

An array of regular and irregular forces are battling alongside the government against rebels, including Russian and Iranian soldiers, and militants from Iraq and Lebanon's Hizbollah group.

The strike comes in the context of growing tension over which forces will take on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in Syria's east.

President Bashar al-Assad's army is trying to prevent US-backed forces from leading that fight.

Representatives of Syria's government and opposition High Negotiations Committee are in Switzerland for the sixth round of UN-backed peace negotiations, but there has been little sign of progress.

In the first concrete results from talks this week on ending Syria's conflict, the UN said the warring sides had agreed to set up expert committees to discuss "constitutional issues".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'Syria, Russia condemn US-led coalition strike'. Print Edition | Subscribe