US-led coalition strikes Syrian army positions in Deir ez-Zor province – state media
US-led coalition aircraft have reportedly bombed Syrian military positions in the Al Bukamal area of Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria, state media outlet SANA reports, citing a military source.
The strike, according to the military source, allegedly targeted a Syrian “military position” in al-Harra, southeast of Al Bukamal. There are dead and wounded following the strike, the source added.
The strike was “probably” carried out by American drones, a source from among the local pro-government forces told Reuters, adding that the attack allegedly targeted Iraqi factions between Albu Kamal and Tanf, as well as Syrian military positions.
The Pentagon, however, denied any involvement. “Not a US or Coalition strike,” US Department of Defense spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Sputnik, about the reported attack.
The reported strike would not be the first time the US-led coalition targeted the positions of Syrian military and pro-Damascus forces in Deir ez-Zor, where the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) operate.
The SDF, with the support of the US-led anti-IS coalition, began Operation Roundup on May 1, with a declared goal of driving out remaining jihadists from the Iraq-Syria border region and the middle Euphrates River Valley. To help their allies gain ground, the coalition has conducted 225 strikes with 280 engagements in May. “This demonstrates a 304 percent increase over the 74 strikes conducted in March and a 123 percent increase over the 183 strikes recorded in April,” the Pentagon noted earlier. US-led strikes in the vicinity of Abu Kamal have been carried out daily during June, allegedly targeting IS positions and supply routes.
Damascus has repeatedly denounced Washington’s actions as a violation of Syrian sovereignty, arguing that the US presence only benefits terrorists and those who want to carve up the country.
“The United States is losing its cards. The main card was Al-Nusra, that was called ‘moderate,’ but when scandals started leaking that they’re not moderate, that they’re Al-Qaeda, which is supposed to be fought by the United States, they started looking for another card. This card is the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] now,” Bashar Assad told RT in a recent interview.
READ MORE: US warns against attacking its troops after Assad says they’ll leave Syria ‘one way or another'
Most of the Syrian territory has been liberated by government forces, with the help of Russian air power and Iranian advisers on the ground. The only remaining major pockets of militants are found in the US-protected zones of ‘interest.’ In addition to the coalition’s air support, over 2,000 US soldiers are embedded with the SDF in the northeast, as well around Al-Tanf base, established not far from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Damascus says that the American presence discourages ‘moderate’ militants from engaging in any constructive negotiations with the government. After each Syrian military victory or successful reconciliation effort, the US and its partners are trying to counteract these gains by “supporting more terrorism, bringing more terrorists to Syria, or by hindering the political process,” Assad told RT in a recent interview, blaming the US for prolonging the seven-year war.
“Somehow, they’re going to leave,” Assad said, adding that the Syrian government will focus on dealing with the US-backed forces, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), “with the Americans, or without the Americans.”
Washington seemingly took Assad’s statement as a threat and has warned the government troops against any attempt to remove them by force. “Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking US forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” Director of Joint Staff Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie noted.
The US will remain in Syria as long as needed, to maintain the so-called “deconfliction zone” under the coalition's umbrella, the US military official added. Damascus, however, does not recognize any unilaterally declared “deconfliction zones” – unlike the internationally recognized “de-escalation zones,” which Russia, Turkey and Iran established, with the full support of the United Nations Security Council.