Syrian State-run media says a rare United States strike on government-backed troops in eastern Syria killed and wounded dozens of tribal fighters, calling it a new effort “to support terrorism”.
The US-led coalition said its action was in “self-defence”, citing a major attack on its allied forces and US advisers in Deir el-Zour province by at least 500 fighters, battle tanks, howitzers and mortars.
The overnight attack on Wednesday, which a US 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.
A stronghold of Islamic State militants until late last year, the province also was the group’s main source of oil revenue.
US-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.
In an e-mail overnight, Colonel Thomas F Veale said the coalition reported to the Russians the build-up of the pro-government forces in the area before the attack, and communicated with them during and after it.
Veale said they suspect the Syrian pro-government forces were trying to seize terrain from the US-backed forces liberated from IS militants last year, including major oilfields in the area.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the US air raid wounded 25 pro-Syrian volunteers. It alleged the incident showed that Washington was not interested in fighting Islamic militants but wanted “to seize and hold Syrian economic assets”.
The US strike coincides with worsening violence in Syria.
Turkey, a Nato member, has been carrying out a military offensive to clear a US-backed Kurdish militia from in a north-western border town, increasing tensions between Washington and Ankara.
The Syrian government also has been pressing its campaign in a rebel-held area near the capital of Damascus.
Activists have said at least 211 were killed since Monday in eastern Ghouta.
The US State Department said it was “extremely concerned” about growing violence in Idlib and the eastern Ghouta area. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says there have been reports of new attacks in the last 48 hours killing “dozens” of civilians.
Nauert said the US is supporting a United Nations call for a month-long “cessation of violence”. She says the goal is to allow humanitarian aid and medical care to flow to more than 700 civilians in eastern Ghouta.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia says he will raise the US-led coalition’s deadly air strike on Syrian government-backed troops during closed consultations today in the UN Security Council.
Meanwhile, Turkish officials said the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet in Istanbul to discuss peace efforts for Syria. AP