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Syria says US strike done ‘to support terrorism’

  • This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a civil defense worker carrying a victim after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Syrian rescue workers and activists say the death toll from ongoing government strikes on the opposition-held region near the capital Damascus has risen to at least 35. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP) Uncredited

  • This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows civil defense workers searching for survivors after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Syrian rescue workers and activists say the death toll from ongoing government strikes on the opposition-held region near the capital Damascus has risen to at least 35. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP) Uncredited

  • This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows civil defense workers carrying a wounded man after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Syrian rescue workers and activists say the death toll from ongoing government strikes on the opposition-held region near the capital Damascus has risen to at least 35. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP) Uncredited

  • This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a civil defense worker helping a wounded man after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Syrian rescue workers and activists say the death toll from ongoing government strikes on the opposition-held region near the capital Damascus has risen to at least 35. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP) Uncredited

  • This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows civil defense workers and civilians inspecting a damaged building after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Syrian rescue workers and activists say the death toll from ongoing government strikes on the opposition-held region near the capital Damascus has risen to at least 35. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP) Uncredited

  • A plume of smoke rises while civil defense workers arrive at the scene of an attack after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Thursday. Uncredited

  • Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses local administrators in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Turkish officials say the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet in Istanbul to discuss peace efforts for Syria. The officials said and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to the summit during a telephone call on Thursday. (Kayhan Ozer/Pool Photo via AP) Kayhan Ozer



Associated Press
Thursday, February 08, 2018

BEIRUT — Syrian state-run media said Thursday a rare U.S. strike on government-backed troops in eastern Syria killed and wounded dozens of tribal fighters, calling it a new effort “to support terrorism.”

The U.S.-led coalition said its action was in “self-defense,” citing a major attack on its allied forces and U.S. advisers in Deir el-Zour province by at least 500 fighters, battle tanks, howitzers and mortars.

The overnight attack, which a U.S. military official earlier said killed about 100 of the attackers, added another layer to the Syrian conflict that is once again plunging into a new and unpredictable spiral of violence.

The attack in Deir el-Zour province in northeastern Syria occurred in crowded battle space. A stronghold of Islamic State militants until late last year, the province also was the group’s main source of oil revenue. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces have been fighting for control of Deir el-Zour with rival Russian-backed Syrian troops that are reinforced by Iranian-supported militias.

The U.S.-backed forces control areas east of the Euphrates River and most of the oil and gas fields, while government forces are based in the west. Previous friction was reported before, but Wednesday’s incident appeared to be the largest since last year. The IS militants have been dispersed in the province, which also has a number of U.S. bases.

In an email Thursday to The Associated Press, Col. Thomas F. Veale said the coalition reported to the Russians the buildup of the pro-government forces in the area before the attack, and communicated with them during and after it. The Russian officials offered assurances that they would not engage the coalition forces in the area, Veale said.

“Pro-regime forces initiated hostilities with artillery pieces (howitzers). Additionally, Syrian pro-regime forces maneuvered T-55 and T-72 main battle tanks with supporting mortar fire in what appears to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces approximately 5 miles east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham, Syria,” Veale said.

By crossing the river, the pro-government forces would have violated the existing de-confliction agreement between Washington and Moscow, approaching U.S.-backed forces based near an oil field. Russia is the main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad