Explosions rock base housing US troops in Syrian desert

No US casualties in coordinated attack on al-Tanf, which comes a week after pro-Iran fighters vowed a ‘harsh’ response to an alleged Israeli-US joint strike originating from there

The US military outpost al-Tanf in southern Syria, October 22, 2018. (AP/Lolita Baldor)
The US military outpost al-Tanf in southern Syria, October 22, 2018. (AP/Lolita Baldor)

A military outpost in southern Syria used by US troops and its allies was hit by a coordinated attack on Wednesday, a week after pro-Iranian militias vowed revenge for an alleged Israeli-American strike near Palmyra.

A US official said no American troops stationed at the al-Tanf base near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan were injured or killed.

Several blasts were heard from the base, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported.

“Explosions resounded from the al-Tanf base used by the US-led coalition” fighting the Islamic State group, the monitor said.

The US official said the attack appeared to include at least one drone strike and possibly groundfire. It was not yet clear who carried out the attack.

“We know of no casualties,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said there was no information on whether local forces were injured or killed in the attack.

On October 14, pro-Iranian militias in Syria vowed a “very harsh” response to an alleged Israeli-American strike against their facilities near the city of Palmyra in central Syria the night before, which they said killed and injured several of their members.

In a statement, the groups — referring to themselves collectively as the “Syria Allies Operations Room” — said the attack was conducted through Jordan and the area of al-Tanf.

The base is located on a road serving as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces from Tehran to all the way to southern Lebanon and Israel. Israeli officials see the presence of US troops there as a key element in frustrating Iranian attempts to smuggle weapons into Lebanon and Syria.

Neither Israel nor the US has acknowledged conducting the attack near Palmyra. Israel, as a rule, does not comment on specific strikes it carries out in Syria, but does generally acknowledge that it conducts operations against Iran-linked groups in the country in order to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons and to prevent attacks against Israel from Syria.

Al Tanf was set up in 2016 as part of the fight against the IS group. US and coalition troops are based there to train local Syrian opposition forces on patrols to counter Islamic State militants.

Damascus and its allies have repeatedly said US troops had no reason to be there.

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