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Led coalition attacks pro-Syrian government forces in Dayr al-Zawr

Led coalition attacks pro-Syrian government forces in Dayr al-Zawr

In a press release, the US -led coalition described the February 7 attack as "unprovoked", noting that the Assad forces targeted a "well- established Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters" in Syria's Deir ez-Zor province.

The coalition said the attack took place in Khusham in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, five miles east of the agreed-on "de-confliction" line created to separate Russian-backed regime troops and US-backed forces in Syria.

The US maintains about 2,000 troops in Syria, who mostly work with the over 50,000-strong Syrian Democratic Forces, a mix of Kurdish and Arab fighters who have been the primary US-backed force fighting ISIS in Syria.

Syrian Kurdish officials said they reached out to the Assad regime for assistance, to no avail.

But while ISIS has lost over 98% of its territory in Syria numerous other objectives outlined by Tillerson are still fraught with difficulty.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who sits on Senate foreign relations and military oversight committees, said the episode raised serious concerns about the open-ended U.S. military presence in Syria.

According to the statement, a pro-government militia unit on Wednesday conducted a reconnaissance and search operation in the vicinity of an oil refinery in the province of Deir al-Zour to identify and destroy a bandit group responsible for shelling government troop positions.

The Syrian Democratic Forces have managed to capture much of Syria's oil and gas infrastructure after ejecting ISIS from those areas.

They "were likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for Daesh from 2014 to 2017", he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The U.S. -led coalition said earlier that it carried out Wednesday air strikes against "Syrian pro-regime forces" that launched an "unprovoked attack" on Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)' headquarters and killed an estimated 100 militiamen.

To complicate matters, two United States defense officials told CNN that the United States military now assesses that Russian contractors, believed to be funded by the Russian government, participated in Wednesday's assault.

"Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted (Pro-Regime Forces) attack", the official added. According to a statement released by Operation Inherent Resolve, American advisers were present at the time of the attack, though none were injured or killed.

A human rights group gathering information on the Syrian civil war says the area where the clash occurred has oil fields.

America's support for the YPG has alienated America's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partner, Turkey, which considers the Syrian Kurdish group to be terrorists.

Shortly after Tillerson's speech and an announcement by the United States military that it meant to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces to establish a border security force in order to secure areas liberated from ISIS, Turkey launched a major military operation targeting Kurdish groups in Afrin, Syria.

"We know they were pro-regime forces but".

Asked whether the USA military was stumbling into Syria's broader conflict, Mattis said: "No".

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